I often hear leaders struggle with holding others accountable. They set goals and then get frustrated when their team doesn’t step up and take action. It is hard work having to push others to get things done. This leads them to be perceived as micro-managers, further increasing frustration.
These leaders then ask, how can I hold others accountable and not be perceived negatively. It implies it is necessary for them to control others. And they want to know how to control others in a positive way. Do you see the problem? It is not possible to control others and be seen as a positive leader. A leader who others want to follow and enjoy working for.
We can’t control others
So if we can’t control others, how can we hold them accountable? The answer is more fundamental than how can we do this. The truth is we can’t control others, at least not in a sustainable way that achieves positive results. So if we can’t control them, what do we do?
The answer lies in why we take action. Whatever action we take is preceded by motivation. I might sit down and watch TV. It comes from my motivation to relax or to check in on something of interest. Where does our motivation come from? It comes from what we care about.
Accountability comes from within
The only way we can control someone is not to tell them what to do. Instead, we need to understand what they care about and make a connection. Once we align with their care we generate motivation, or commitment as I usually call it, to take action. We are not controlling someone, because commitment is voluntary. We choose what we do and don’t care about. Accountability comes from within, we have to hold ourselves accountable.
This is a critical point for leaders. If you want to have a highly accountable team, you have to connect to what the team members care about. When you ask them to take action, make it safe to say no. If you receive a no, it is an invitation to uncover their care and connect the dots. By doing this, you invite them to commit to take action and hold themselves accountable. This also holds true for your team. Instead of telling people they are on your team, give them a choice. If they truly say yes, your team will comprise of people who want to follow you. And that is the most fun and rewarding situation as a leader.
Are you frustrated trying to hold your team members accountable? If so, now is the time to connect to what they care about and invite them to commit to join you. Make it safe for them to say no.