When I say the word accountability, what comes to mind?
Is the first word “trust?”
Yet, in reality, when we’re holding our teams accountable, what we’re saying is, “I trust you. You have what it takes to get the work done. I believe in you.”
Some of the biggest struggles I hear about from business owners are rooted in a lack of trust in their team and an accountability deficit. Very often they’re also displaying a lack of trust and accountability in themselves.
Typically these leaders have not yet realized the direct connection between those two values. What happens when you don’t understand the interconnected dance that’s taking place? You can’t ask your team to join you in it and you’ll struggle to effectively lead.
On the opposite side of the accountability coin, when we resist holding individuals accountable, we’re saying, “I don’t believe in you. I don’t think you’re capable.”
(Now, the last statement may be true, you don’t trust them. That is an entirely different conversation. And an invitation to figure out why you’re keeping a person who is not the right fit for your company.)
What does an accountability deficit look like?
A recent client, David, came to me looking for someone to help hold him accountable and move him towards being the leader he wanted to be for his staff, his future business plans, and himself.
His main challenge? We were in agreement there – it was that he didn’t trust his team. And he didn’t know where to start on changing that.
He wanted to get out of the day-to-day details and the DOING so he could work more on the higher-level vision, strategy, and growth of his business. Which are, as it happens, his areas of brilliance.
But David lacked confidence in himself as a leader and in his decision-making when delegating. Instead, he was spending his time – all of it, not just the workday – doing the work himself, not leading, listening, and empowering. He was burnt out, frustrated, and knew his team was following in his emotional footsteps.
What’s holding you back from trust and accountability?
The difficulty, more often than not, comes down to the need to be liked. Leaders who don’t want to be seen as overbearing or aggressive ultimately let their fear interfere with them inviting their team to step forth and do the job that’s expected.
Accountability is showing trust.
In your team. Trust they’re capable and willing to do the work, or capable of figuring out how to get there, and seeking guidance when they don’t. Most people really do want to do a good job.
In yourself. Trust that YOU have what it takes to lead effectively. Stop the second-guessing and shoulding.
This is graceful accountability. One that says to your team, we don’t beat ourselves up, but we don’t let ourselves off the hook.
Establishing authentic trust is a two-way street
The first plan of action for David was to gain clarity on his strengths and weaknesses so he could confidently delegate and trust his team – and himself.
He committed to try new approaches, to fail, learn, and do it better next time. And, to apologize when he was “that overbearing manager,” and then invite conversation.
David brought strength, transparency, vulnerability, and authenticity to his leadership.
He started trusting himself more and more as a leader.
He started delegating to his team more consistently, holding them accountable to their goals, their commitments, and their growth.
I’m thrilled to say that David’s original timeline for his plan, to have an owner-independent company in 10 years, has now changed to 2 years.
All because he was willing to do the work and trust. Himself. His team.
We need to trust that WE have what it takes to be a leader, and hold ourselves accountable, or reach out for support to be held accountable to our dreams.
How do you lead from a place of trust and accountability?
If you struggle with these same traps there are three shifts you can make that will set you up to be the leader you want to be.
1. BE Intentional.
Know the outcome you want. Get clear in your intention and your requests.
Ask for confirmation that your team understands what is expected, and when.
Do they have everything they need to accomplish their goal or task?
Is there a skill set they need to add or augment?
As Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
2. BE Curious.
Bring compassionate curiosity to the table, not criticizing. We all want to be seen and heard.
Ask, then listen with the intent to understand, NOT to be understood.
If a team member isn’t performing at the level we want, it’s often a result of an unmet expectation.
Let them know you’ve noticed things are being dropped and ask about it.
What’s getting in the way? Are they clear on the expectations?
When a team member is not performing the problem often is that many of our expectations are also uncommunicated.
Put the judgment on hold and look through the lens of curiosity. What’s really going on? How can you clearly and intentionally work through this together?
As my friend Betsy Clark says, “Civility brings solutions.”
3. BE Real
Pause and connect to the person you want to be.
Let go of what has not been serving you or your team.
Notice, all three strategies are Being, not Doing.
We have the “doing” part down. It’s who you’re Being in the moment that is the rocket fuel.
So now, ask yourself, “What is the outcome I would like to see?”
Then engage your team in defining the path to that end goal. Frame the dialogue in a way that invites them to the conversation. And really listen to them.
This is the answer I consistently get when I ask people what they want more of.
And to be clear, it’s ease they’re seeking, not for everything to be easy.
A seasoned business owner recently remarked, “I just want to walk, not run all day long.”
Can you relate? Holy smokes, I can.
As a business owner, there are so many things that you can do.
Shiny object syndrome is real.
And it fuels your exhaustion and fades your freedom.
As a 29+ year entrepreneur, I’ve certainly learned a thing or two. For some reason, it was often the hard way!
I hoped that if I just worked harder and pushed more, I could eventually get to the other side, create more balance, and finally experience freedom and ease.
In case you’re curious, hope is not a good strategy. (Ask me how I know.)
During my time prior to coaching, I was a caterer. It was a fun job that allowed me to be creative, travel around the state, and build a very successful boutique catering company.
While I was successful, I was also working 10–12-hour days, often six days a week.
I was missing many of the activities my kids were participating in, things I cared about.
When my kids would come to me and ask me to do something with them, I’d tell them just 10-more minutes. When they wouldn’t come back and get me, I thought, “Score, I can get one more thing done.”
It took me a while, but I finally realized that I was NOT being the person I wanted to be.
My business was very successful, yet I was burnt-out, checked out, overwhelmed & exhausted, and at times, a bit prickly with the ones I loved.
It is possible to have both a thriving professional life AND a thriving personal life, simultaneously.
Both matter. Yet I think all of us have been on a journey at some point where deep down we know we’re sacrificing our physical health, our relationships, and mental health.
That was my journey.
I was working long hours and neglecting the people who meant the most to me.
And I had convinced myself I was doing it for them instead of to them.
As crazy as it sounds, I told myself that I was being present with my family even while my phone was in my hand when we were sitting on the couch. We were watching a movie “together,” and I was still in my inbox responding to clients.
Over the years as an entrepreneur, I’ve found that whenever I’m pushing, driving, and saying “YES” to more so I can finally “make it to the next level and just breathe,” it rarely happens. Even if it does, it comes at a cost.
In fact, that head down, shoulder in, masculine drive for more moved me further away from what I went into business for in the first place…to create more freedom, flexibility, and financial security.
That to-do list is like a fluffle of rabbits. It. Just. Keeps. Multiplying.
It’s time to build a business that will sustain the life you want to live, not consume it.
Interested in changing your To-Do list to a Success list so you can create more of what you want?
Here are 3 strategies to start moving you closer to the freedom and ease you desire:
Strategy #1: Pause for Freedom
Now, this may sound counterintuitive to you.
You’re probably thinking, “Lisa, for the love of Pete, I’m overwhelmed and exhausted just looking at my to-do list…and you want me to Pause?”
There’s some serious power in an intentional pause.
Not everything matters equally
We often experience overwhelm, stress, and exhaustion because we’re saying “YES” to something that seems like an opportunity in the moment. In reality, it’s a distraction dressed in the most clever of disguises.
If you’re not clear on what more freedom and ease in your day looks like, how will you invite more of it?
Pause and ponder this question:
What does more freedom and ease look like in my life?
**With specificity, not simply, “more time, a stacked retirement account, and someone to do the damn laundry for once.”
Strategy #2: Prioritize Ease
Let’s be clear, when you’re saying “YES” to one thing, you’re saying “NO” to something else. There is always a tradeoff.
There are 24-hours in a day. That is non-negotiable.
You wake up, and there are all these things you could do, all these things you could have, and all these things you could know.
Which means you have to make choices about what you want and how you go about getting it.
Refer to Strategy #1 above, then ask yourself:
What do I want more of?
What do I want less of?
Then, put your MORE list in order of priority (what you want most at the top), and unapologetically move into action starting with #1.
Strategy #3: Structure = Freedom
The creative in you is probably cursing my name right now. It’s ok. I still love ya and completely understand.
Here’s the thing, when you have more structure, it will be easier to pause, prioritize, and intentionally invest your resources (time and financial) rather than spending them. Investing provides ROI.
Spending rarely does.
Pause, Prioritize, and then Ponder this:
If what I want is more of X, what’s one action I can take today to ensure that my calendar (and checkbook) reflect that? What’s one action that will structure my time around that priority?
Here’s a favorite quote of mine by Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, and author.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
As I said earlier, there’s some serious power in an intentional pause. Choose your growth and freedom.
Need some help figuring out what more freedom and ease is for you? Set up a complimentary 20-minute call so I can support you, here.
How do we discern between the two when something’s coming our way, and it looks really exciting?
The only way we can determine that is when we know what the goals are that we’re looking to achieve and the results we’re after.
We can then compare this exciting thing that’s in front of us and say this is a fantastic opportunity, but it’s a distraction in the long run.
Or we can look at and go eh, it’s definitely a distraction.
Only then, when we have clarity of goals and clarity of results that we’re looking for, do we align our choices more readily to see something that’s exciting but understand that it’s a distraction from our goals.
And see the opportunities as real opportunities; this is an opportunity, this is where I want to go, and the results of me investing my time and my resources into this activity will pull me closer to my goals.
If you’re struggling with ‘is something an opportunity,’ do I want to be doing it, or is it just a distraction? Slow down, look at your goals, the results you’re working so hard for. Will this opportunity that’s in front of you move you closer or is it 10 degrees off, and you’re going to wind up way away from where it is that you want to be?
The thermostat sets the temperature. The thermometer reacts to the environment, fluctuating up and down.
I use this simple analogy when working with my clients.
If you’re struggling with your team, perhaps it’s conflicting communication styles that impact collaboration, productivity, or culture. Be the thermostat, set the temperature, mode, energy, and conversation instead of being a thermometer fluctuating with whatever the environment offers.
When you’re being the thermostat and influencing the environment rather than reacting, your team will be more likely to rise if you’re the one setting and emulating.
Use curiosity when you’re struggling. Are you a thermometer reacting to your environment and the people around you? Or are you setting the tone, energy, and expectations?
Be the person you want to be in creating a business and a life you want to live. Be the thermostat.