I Am A Manager Who Holds People Accountable


Are you? Do you really want to be?

There are two major problems with the sentence that forms the title of this article. Can you spot them both?

Look at it in two halves. Here’s the first half:

“I am a manager …”

Are you really a manager? Are you sure?

We manage resources. We manage things: computers, real estate, product inventory. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t, and can’t, manage people. The minute we try, we come up against a major obstacle: The person we’re trying to “manage” immediately senses that he or she is being treated like a thing …and resents it, either consciously or unconsciously. That bad feeling of resentment makes personal growth – and peak performance – impossible. People disengage. They go through the motions. Organizations suffer.

What does it feel like when someone manages you? Like you’re being treated as an inferior – as a resource. As a thing. All too often, as something that needs to be fixed. Nobody wants to be fixed. Nobody wants to be managed, either.

What does it feel like when someone leads you? Like you’ve been inspired to become your very best self. As though your peak potential as a person and as a member of the team has been recognized. As though you landed in the right place, you have been accepted by the right team, and you have accepted a personal challenge to make a contribution that only you can make. Someone cares about you.

People do not want to be managed. In fact, they want to be led. When people are managed, they give the minimum passable effort. When people are led they are inspired to go beyond what they thought they were capable of, and they discover greater depths of both ability and effort.

So: Which way do you want your people to feel? Like they’re being managed .. or like they’re being led?

Most of the people I talk to about this choose “led” – and decide to call themselves leaders, not managers.


Now, let’s look at the second half of that sentence.

“… who holds people accountable.”

I’ve got a surprise for you. The best leaders don’t hold other people accountable.

The elite leaders, the ones who inspire others to be their very best and contribute their very best, the ones who awaken peak potential in those who report to them, hold themselves accountable to fulfil the commitments they’ve made to their direct reports … and then get out of their way.

The dictionary defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” In essence, true accountability is keeping your commitments to people! You are not accountable to things. You are accountable to people.

Accountability is a choice. It is a choice that each and every person must make for themselves. You cannot force someone to be accountable. You cannot demand that people are accountable and get a positive result.

Accountability is not trying to manipulate our people so they’ll do more — accountability is us as leaders being accountable first to them first … to create an environment that inspires accountability.

You do have the power to lead … if you understand what that means. It doesn’t mean that people must obey your every command. It means that you have the power to take conscious actions that affect how people feel, and you choose to make them feel inspired about what they do.

You do have the power of accountability … if you understand what that means. It means you have the power to make specific commitments to your team, and then follow through on those commitments in a way that inspires them to be accountable to you in turn.

We all want our people to do their jobs more and keep their commitments. But in all organizations, what I’ve found is that the real problem is not the people on the front lines who report to us. The real problem is what we as leaders believe about our people.

Do we believe that we are there to “manage” them?

Do we believe it is our job to “hold them accountable”?

If so … it’s time to change our beliefs!


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