Accountable for the Truth

If you hear someone say something that just is not true, do you say anything? If not, are you truly being accountable?

A few years back I arrived at a convention center in time to hear a panel of speakers share their opinions right before lunch. I was to be the first keynote of the afternoon, and I was speaking about building a workplace culture that prioritized and inspired accountability.

Arriving early to see what was going on was a great opportunity for me to get a feel for the room, the audience, and what was being discussed.

What really captured my attention was when one of the leaders said, “We know what the right thing to say is. We have the PR department prepare it for us. Where the real problem is in our organizations is at middle management.”

The hairs on my neck immediately stood on end. This leader simply just did not get it. He did not understand what accountable leadership really was and he was not taking the responsibility for the culture of his organization. This way of thinking connects to the incorrect philosophy that accountability is a way of doing when in reality it is a way of thinking. Accountability is not manipulating someone to do more for you. That always shows up in the statement, “I’m going to hold you accountable.”

Accountability is how we see and think about people. Accountability is how we commit to people, and as leaders, take the responsibility for their safety and their success.

After opening my program that afternoon I connected to the above message with the following, “Any leader that needs the PR department to tell them what to say does not truly connect to the truth, transparency, and understanding the needs of the people they lead. If there is a problem at middle management then the real problem is at senior leadership. Senior leadership was responsible for the decisions to hire those people, was responsible for the training of those people, was responsible for allowing them to stay if they were underperforming, and ultimately responsible for creating and sustaining the workplace culture that allowed all of this to transpire.”

I always struggle with confronting a situation. I naturally do not like to upset people. But when someone says something that just is not right, I have developed the ability to tactfully speak the truth as I see it and as I have seen it played out in so many amazing organizations.

Accountability always starts with the senior leadership. Leadership is responsible to define the culture, model the culture, teach the culture, protect the culture, and celebrate the culture. Any gaps in the above falls on leadership. If it were easy everyone would be accountable. If leadership were easy everyone would be a leader. But they are not.

Accountable leaders never point the finger at anyone or any situation to try and offload blame. It is not easy to admit fault and sometimes it is not easy to speak up. Accountable leadership steps up, speaks up, is aware of what is transpiring inside their organization, and makes the necessary moves to create and protect a positive, powerful, accountable workplace culture. Accountability always speaks up!

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May 2022
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