The higher up you get, the more your butt is exposed
“Want to know what it means? Look it up!”
Carolyn Strider (my mom)
Don’t you hate it when you’re trying to define a word but you end up using the same word to help define it? My mom would have told me to use the dictionary and/or thesaurus.
I was talking about the word, “accountability” to my son, Andrew, last night and it was very hard not to use the word “accountable” in my definition. He doesn’t miss a beat, this kid, and he pointed out that I was cheating.
That being said, I tried a different approach and offered some figures of speech:
“The buck stops here.”
“You made your bed, now you’ll have to lie in it.”
“Do the right thing, even when no one is looking.”
I offered Andrew some examples such as not blaming others for our own behavior or shortcomings, and apologizing when necessary. I told him the difference between an “excuse” and a “good reason” for our actions or behavior.
And finally, I tried to impress upon him that in order to be trusted or considered trustworthy, we need to make good choices because it’s the right thing to do, not because we were trying to impress someone or because we were being watched.
Accountability…he understood. However, he was quick to point out a few things:
- He called attention to times when I had been less than fully accountable.
- He told me when his teachers and advisors at school had been less than fully accountable.
- He offered examples of when his “heroes” (mostly “superheroes” and the occasional sports celebrity) had been less than fully accountable.
- He advised me when politicians (or want-to-be politicians) had been less than fully accountable.
He’s nine years old!
His list and his examples were depressingly impressive.
Andrew taught me that we do not work, communicate and act in a vacuum; people are always watching!
These observers, whether they are our kids, our neighbors, our clients or our staff, are curious and intelligent. They notice inconsistencies and are troubled when they don’t see reasonableness and logic to explain the differences. They are trusting…to a point…and they are impressionable. And finally, what they see in us will become a model for their own behavior.
Leaders must be accountable!
- We must be willing to take the heat for our team’s actions.
- We must step in front of the figurative fan when the %&*@ is flying.
- We must do what we say we are going to do.
- We must admit our shortcomings.
- We must listen to others who have the courage to give us feedback.
- We must look within ourselves to identify what, if anything, we need to change.
- We must commit to being better tomorrow than we are today.
- We must sincerely apologize when an apology is needed.
- We must do what is right and just EVEN THOUGH no one is watching.
As leaders, I believe we need to do the things above in order to inspire, encourage and positively influence those who are watching.
Hopefully, the rest will take care of it itself.