Like parenting, leadership is not measured by favorability ratings. I recall after one of my first promotions at Motorola, another senior leader asked me, “Is anyone angry with you yet?” With barely a week in the role, I indicated “no, not yet” and I clearly remember his response to this day. “Then you aren’t working hard enough.” That moment is when I learned that leadership is about taking risks, challenging the status quo, upsetting the apple cart, and nothing about people liking you.
Similar to the parenting philosophy of Tough Love, I teach clients to implement what I call Robust Accountability. When parents typically implement Tough Love, it is with a troubled child and assumes parents are weak and must work diligently to implement their own rules. Conversely, implementing Robust Accountability in the workplace assumes the leader has the strength of character and the ability to compassionately hold others accountable whether it’s with clients, employees, or peers. As leaders, we have the obligation to set clear expectations and hold everyone accountable.
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Here are a few real-life examples from the leaders I work with and how to implement Robust Accountability:
A key employee on your team continually behaves inappropriately with clients, peers and management. Otherwise they are skilled and competent in their job. Perhaps they are disrespectful, curse like a sailor, hostile, or don’t live out the company’s values. Robust Accountability in this situation calls for a frank conversation and clear opportunity for corrective action. If not corrected, then it’s time for them to go.
Your peer group is not meeting your needs. Ask for what you need. Others may be thinking the same thing. If things don’t change, then move on and find one that does. No hard feelings. It’s as simple as that.
Tiptoeing around the elephant in the room serves no one. Implementing Robust Accountability in the work place may result in some hurt feelings, but holds the possibility of a positive outcome for everyone involved.