I usually think managing accountability is about getting what was promised done. This is why the term holding others accountable is so commonly used. A recent client conversation reminded me that managing accountability is about taking care of someone else. My client shared a missing conversation, one they knew needed to happen, but hadn’t yet. As they shared the story, an item caught my attention. It sounded like the other person had lied to them. Not wishing to jump to conclusions, I checked my understanding. They agreed, it was in line with their interpretation of what had happened.
It was a critical missing conversation
At that moment I realized this was not an ordinary missing conversation, it was a critical one. A member of the team had lied and there had been no discussion with them about it. This was an example of a serious breach of trust and shared values. These moments are pivotal when managing the culture of an organization. If leaders are not willing to hold others accountable to acceptable behaviors, then it says these behaviors are not important.
Managing accountability is about taking care
It also means we aren’t willing to take care of our colleagues. In the situation where the team member lied, if they are not held responsible, they may do it again. And again, quickly becoming a major issue with possible consequence of losing their job. If this occurred and no follow up took place, I can argue we are as much a part of the problem as the person who is lying.
Even though this is a difficult conversation for us, if we don’t have it, we are letting the other person down. They may not be happy about being called out, but you have a very important context for having the conversation. ‘If I don’t tell you what is and is not acceptable, I am not being a good manager to you’.
My client immediately recognized what is necessary and scheduled the meeting. My guess is like most difficult conversations, it will turn out better than they expect. What missing conversations do you have and what are the consequences for others if you don’t have them?