The "A" bomb.
The often-used word-weapon of mass destruction that destroys motivation, stifles creativity and ruins reputations. It's the buzzword that buzzes around boardrooms and back offices, locker rooms, and living rooms, instigating action with a heavy sense of "or else..."
I'm talking about the high-threat, high-anxiety "A" word, accountability.
"I'm holding you accountable for this." "You need to hold them accountable!" What could have been an opportunity for meaningful motivation is now, not. It's "OR ELSE." It's a lost opportunity to build up, buy in, and blow it out of the water. Instead, the motivation (or lack thereof) ends up making someone feel small, wishing to avoid, and do just enough to fulfill that which they're being held accountable to. This perceived threat narrows people's thinking and creativity and diminishes their drive to do better, to be better, to human, better. And it's not just them that's impacted–it's you, too, the dropper of the "A" bomb.
There's another way. A more courageous way.
Courage: The ability to do something that frightens one.
Part of the accountability problem in the workplace is this: We lose sight of who we are. We view each other as "employees," not human beings. We forget that with humanity comes emotions, our experiences, our beliefs, and our sense of self. We expect that once you walk through the doors of corporate America, everything inside us is boxed up, put away, compartmentalized until we leave for the day, change jobs, or retire.
We lose sight of that fact that we, as humans, psychologically NEED these three things: autonomy, competency, and relatedness. Yet often times, we get more caught up in our own wants and needs, our own insecurities, that we end up building a bunker for one and either hide out or us it to go on the defensive. This has to change.
We all have the inherent capability and the ever-present opportunity to lead with the light: to create the environment where those we're asked to lead have the desire to excel and no fear of failure. We have in our potential moving away from holding someone accountable to helping them feel accounted for. The power in this is that when one feels accounted for, they hold themselves accountable. Their motivation comes from light, not the shadows of the dark. They're confident, curious, and courageous. YOU'RE confident, curious, and courageous.
Feeling accounted for ignites the type of motivation that sustains us, that fulfills us, that excites us to WANT TO achieve and WANT TO dare, to take chances, to play big. And being in a position to provide emotional leadership just might be the single greatest catalyst for unleashing another's greatness. And what a gift that is as a leader to give.
Some of my most fulfilling moments in my career center around helping the empowerment of others. I'm not talking about money or promotion, I'm talking about something far more meaningful:
expansion of the self. Creating an environment where the possibility of personal expansion exists is magical. It's bigger than self, yet in recognizing our intention as a force of good, we're more apt to experience that for ourselves, from within ourselves. It creates a cycle of intrinsic well-being that allows us to find meaning where it doesn't exist, allows us to set our own fears aside and stay present for our people, and continue to contribute to the universe what we desire in return.
Helping people feel accounted for begins with recognizing the opportunity to do so. It's a courageous effort on your part, as more often than not, you, too, have an "A" bomb casting a shadow over your head. Therein lies the test: Do I succumb to the fear of others, or do I stay my path, lead with the light, and trust in "accounted for" versus "accountable to."
Ah, the beauty of choice. The choice of courageously choosing to adapt and move forward through leading with the light, outside of the shadow of fear and "or else."
Doing so has as much positive effect on you, their manager or leader, as it does them. It motivates you away from directives to asking the question, "how can I help you today?" and "where are you having the most resistance in doing what you're being asked to do?" Not, "you're accountable for these numbers," or, " I'm holding you accountable for our success." The former is experienced as approach-based motivation–we move towards the situation. The latter, avoidance-based" motivation–we move away from it. Which do you think creates the best outcome?
Do you wish to make a positive change within your team, on your organization? Start by decommissioning your "A" bombs. Instead of blowing up one's motivation, blow their minds by helping them feel accounted for.
Get yourself and your team out of the accountability shadow and start creating/building/designing/igniting products and possibilities with the motivation that helps all of us human, better.