Ep #115: The Accountability Quagmire
Accountability – making a commitment and then following through on it. You wouldn’t think it’s that hard to do, right? Yet every day, we are surrounded by people who think they’re above accountability. And many leaders, in order to avoid difficult conversations, let it go. They don’t address it, and therein lies the quagmire. We leaders are negatively reinforcing the very behaviors we say we don’t want. So here’s my suggestion…
What you’ll find in this episode:
- The responses people demonstrate as a result of being confronted with their own lack of results.
- People-pleasing and the lack of accountability.
- Accountability and the entitled generation.
- Spiderman and accountability – with great power comes great responsibility.
- Holding onto people because we’re afraid to address their performance is diminishing the ability and the engagement of the people we really want.
- How to change all that – and change the world!
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Hey, I’m Kris Plachy, host of the Lead Your Team podcast.
Running a million-dollar business is not easy. And whether you’re just getting started with building your team, or you’ve been at this for a while, I’m going to bring you honest, specific, and clear practices you can use right now, today to improve how well you lead your team. Let’s go ahead and get started.
Hello and welcome this week to the podcast. I’m Kris Plachy. I coach female entrepreneurs on all the things related to team. I am thrilled that you’re here and have something that I want to talk to you about this week.
So one of the core areas of focus that my clients and I talk about and work through is around accountability. It’s around addressing when people make a commitment, and they don’t follow through. At the end of it, that’s really what accountability is. It’s just holding someone accountable. And I’ve defined this in a lot of different ways. I know in the past that you’ve heard me say that there’s accountability is accounting for someone’s ability, and that accountability is also recognition and acknowledging exceptional performance. It’s not just when people don’t do things well.
But specifically today, I want to talk about when people don’t do things well. And I want to talk about what I’m calling the accountability quagmire, because I think we’re in a negative reinforcement of the very behaviors we say we don’t want. And so let me explain.
If we focus on, for purposes of today, that accountability is about me discussing with you when you do not follow through with something you said you would do. Yeah, basic. But one of the things that comes up a lot in our conversations is how stunned employees or team members are when you do that. Defensive, justifying, blaming, crying, you name it. There’s all these different responses that people demonstrate as a result of being sort of confronted with their own lack of results. Even if you say it with love and grace in your heart, people still are all the things I just said, defensive, blaming, justifying, everything.
And one of the frustrations that I know I’ve coached myself on and coached others on is when you learn how to hold people accountable in a way that’s constructive, in a way that is designed to focus on the role and the results that the role is there to contribute to and deliver, you realize how little accountability there is in other organizations, because then team members come and work for you, and they’re stunned because most people are used to being average. And so when you show up and say, well, wait, you said you were going to have that to me on Tuesday. Where is it? You’re an exception to the rule. You realize that. This is what you have to get.
So the people that we’re hiring in the world are not normally used to being held accountable because there’s so many people, so many managers who are not properly managing teams because they have all this, their own story, their own fear, their own people-pleasing around the conversation. So then they don’t even have it. And then they just get mad at employees and all the things that… You know all the story. I’m not going to get into that today.
But here’s where I’m finding the quagmire. And I would certainly love your opinion here. So if you follow me on LinkedIn or Instagram, or even in the email, just I would love to know your thoughts because this is really interesting. I’m really aware of this right now. And for my clients who listen to this or my listeners who are in countries not the US, this may be more interesting than it is relevant, but it certainly could be just as relevant.
So in the US we have a real mantra, as being a US citizen, about freedom and independence and doing whatever I want, and I can do whatever I want, and it’s in the constitution. Some people take that, I think, to an excessive form. And then, but there’s this real mantra of freedom and independence in this country. And we have a gap when it comes to accountability for that freedom and independence.
And so I’m realizing as I’m having an experience in my own personal life of somebody who is, I’m watching people I know be held accountable to a commitment that they made knowingly, and they are railing against it because they don’t like the consequence of not meeting the commitment, even though they knew what the consequence was. And so it has me thinking like, oh, we have this really jacked up belief system. I get to do whatever I want, and there’s no responsibility for it. Fascinating. No wonder we’re struggling as a society in so many ways to accept responsibility. And there’s so much entitlement and so much privilege that, listen, if you say you will do something, that means you will. And if someone holds you to account for that, that doesn’t make them bad. If you agree by the laws of this land to follow street laws when you drive, that’s the agreement when you get your license, you make that agreement. And then if you get pulled over, and I’m not talking the violence of police, so please, that’s not where I’m going. I’m just saying like, you get pulled over, period. And then you’re like aghast, offended.
So this applies to Mr. 52-year-old or 60-year-old who lives in my neighborhood who drives a Range Rover. I’m sure he’s a freedom dude. I get to do whatever I want. He’s probably made all his own money. I think that’s amazing. But do you know what he does in his Range Rover? He just skips the line in traffic and just cuts in front of everyone. The woman in the Mercedes, who during the school line, drop offline, literally drives on the other side of the road because she doesn’t want to have to wait in the traffic. Now if she had been pulled over, she would have had a story, and she would have justified her behavior. She would have blamed it on something. She would have been defensive instead of just say to the cop, you’re right, man, I cut the line.
So we have, and there’s examples of this, and I know that we like to say that we’ve been raised this entitled generation, these poor millennials, who’ve been so beaten up, but guess who raised them? It’s all these Gen Xers and Boomers who didn’t hold anybody accountable. And now they’re all at work. But I’m talking even the 60-year-olds that I know, the 55-year-olds that I know who are so used to being able to get whatever they want, they cannot handle being held accountable. And so they rail.
And my position is a little Peter Parker-ish, a little Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. If you want the freedom and the independence and the ability to say, I can be whoever I want in the world, then you also have the other edge of that sword, which is that you will be held to account for your lack of follow-through, your lack of commitment, your breaking of the rules, your breaking of ethics and morality. It is not a carte blanche forgiveness plan. And it is unacceptable to rail against the very people that are creating opportunity for you.
This is the part that is the most frustrating for me. So I see this on teams. So you have this great team with a good boss, and you make a commitment, and you don’t meet it. And the boss is very clear. Look, I understand this is your commitment. If you don’t meet it, here’s what’s going to happen. It’s not personal, but you decide for whatever reason not to meet the commitment. And then the boss implements whatever the consequence was that we all knew would happened. And you lose your mind. Now the boss is the problem. Now the boss is difficult. Now the boss is mean. No, no, no. But we’ve built this. We have so many people who think they are so entitled and so privileged that they don’t know how to handle it when they get told, no.
So I feel your pain, leaders in the world, you are really trying to do your best to create a equitable, fair, well-communicated platform of expectations that you’re being consistent, you’re holding people accountable, and you’re addressing it. And then you still get the people who rail against you. I really do understand, and I’m obviously a little riled up about it because we’re breeding it. We’re breeding it in our society by saying you can be and do whatever you want, but we’re forgetting to teach the other part, which is that isn’t a blank check. That it isn’t whatever you want. And it certainly isn’t whatever you want just for certain people, because I know that people of color and certain genders and certain lifestyles and certain disabilities, they don’t think this way. They have a very different experience of the world in many cases.
So I’m just frustrated because, and I’m inviting you, I guess, is my point. The only way we’re going to change this is by all of us who choose the mantle of leadership, who decide, who say, I choose this, I decide to stand here and claim responsibility for a team, a business, and to be the leader of, which to me means you are the custodian of the effort, the work, the mind of these people while they are working for you. I do believe that. I think you have a responsibility to them. I think if you made that decision, and you may not have made that decision that way. You might’ve thought I’m going to sell mattresses or t-shirts or whatever. But now you have a team. Now you made the choice. If that’s who you are, and you made that choice, now you’ve got to ask yourself, are you willing?
Because the more of us who learn, who are willing to learn how to create accountability cultures that are healthy and safe and productive, we will change the world, y’all. And to be completely honest, we’ll also make a lot more money. There is so much half-assing happening in companies that you are tolerating, because you don’t want to have a difficult conversation, because understandably you’re going to have to deal with their backlash, that you’re mean, or you’re a bully or you’re picking on them.
But some leaders do do that because they don’t know how to have the conversation, so they are mean. But you can actually learn how to do this and be really constructive and do it well and feel proud of yourself and build a culture of performance in your company. Because here’s the last thing I’ll say, the people who do say I can be and say and do whatever I want in the world, who really mean it and who are also cognizant of their impact, they don’t want to work with average. They want to work with players. So a real high maintenance, high performer who isn’t entitled and have a false sense of who they are, which triggers arrogance, they want to work with other people who want to come to work and play, get it done. They don’t want to work with average.
So us holding onto people because we’re afraid to address their performance is diminishing the ability and the engagement of the people we really, really want. And the more we all just do this, the cleaner our workforce would become. The expectations would get better. Leaders, we could do diminish greatly, I don’t think we ever eliminate, but we could diminish greatly tragic, awful, mean, abusive leaders because they do exist. Most of us aren’t. Most of us are just a little unsure of how to do this thing.
And I can teach you how to do this so that you can feel good. That’s why I do what I do because I really do think we could change the world. And I know that’s a very big statement, and I don’t talk about that very often, but people, so hundreds of millions of people go to work every day. If they work in an environment that models accountability and grace and respect, I think we could really make a huge difference in the world and the experience that people have in the world.
So this podcast is to first say, I hear you. I understand your frustration as a leader when you try and hold people accountable, and you get the blame justification and the sort of the lashing out that is common. I hear you, and I see you, and I feel you. I also want you to understand why that’s happening is because from at so many levels it’s happening. It’s happening in schools where teachers aren’t backed when they held the kids accountable for not doing the work. And then the parents get involved, and the administration is like, tells the teacher, just give them a C and pass them. It’s happening on sports teams at the young age when a kid doesn’t get enough playtime, and a parent makes noise. And the staff of the team tells the coach, just play the kid so we don’t have to deal with it. It’s happening in families when you tell your kids, these are the things you need to do to get your allowance, and they don’t do it. And we just think, let’s give them the allowance so we don’t have to deal with it.
And it’s happening at work when you ask people to do things, and you pay them money to deliver the result. And they don’t do it, and you just think, whatever, I’ll take care of it so I don’t have to deal with it. That, over and over and over and over again, times millions is what is leading to how half-assery. And the backside of that is intolerance from people to receive feedback if they don’t deliver, because people don’t know how to fail, and they don’t know how to be told that they didn’t meet an expectation without reverting to defensiveness, justification and blame.
And the only way we’re going to change that, in my mind, is the instruction and teaching and training and coaching of people who choose, on purpose, the mantle of leadership. Even if you have five people on your team, there’s five people you could have a massive impact on.
And that reverberates. So we want to have a belief that we get to do whatever we want and be whatever we want and create whatever we want. Great. Let’s compliment that with, and I also have responsibility to whomever I touch, impact on my journey, and that just because someone looks me in the eye and says, listen, you didn’t do what you said you would do, that does not mean I’m a bad person, or you’re a bad person. It just means, you’re right. I didn’t meet my commitment. I’m sorry. What’s the next best thing for me to do? Imagine if we all just did that. Imagine that. I think we could change the world.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. If you want to learn how to hold people accountable without losing your mind, I have a person you should work with. Her name is Kris Plachy. You should be in the How to CEO Program, which by the way, is currently open for enrollment. Where are you? Why are you here listening to the podcast and not working with me in person? I don’t understand. I want to meet you. Okay. Until next time.
One more thing before you go, in a world of digital courses and online content, I like to work with my clients live because I know that when you have someone you can work with, ask questions of, and meet with, you’re so much more likely to get the success that you want. So head on over to HowToCEOLive.com to learn more about our very exciting, very exclusive program just for female entrepreneurs. We’ll see you there.