Community service is not a punishment.
Accountability is not a way of doing; it is a way of thinking. Accountability is keeping your commitments to people … and a commitment is No Matter What.
I believe that when you start adopting this No Matter What mindset on a regular basis, you can not only transform your team … but you also can begin the process of changing the world and make it a better place. Let me explain what I mean. One of the critical No Matter What commitments that I share as I work with leaders around the world is a personal commitment to an idea I call “It’s All of Us.”
When leaders make a personal commitment to “It’s All of Us,” they have an attitude of “We succeed together. We fail together. We are all on this journey together.”
In the workplace, this means working from the assumption that everyone on the team has a contribution to make, just as everyone on the team has obstacles to overcome. If one person looks good, everybody looks good. If one person looks bad, everybody looks bad. We move forward as one, not as individuals. Great leaders know that, and they are always ready, willing, and able to connect with everyone on their team, and support everyone on their team, in the process of building something that is bigger than any one individual. And they follow through on the “It’s All of Us” commitment … No Matter What.
As I say, that’s what it looks like in the workplace. But what about outside the workplace?
One of the truly wonderful things I’ve seen happen as I work with leaders on their accountability to this non-negotiable “It’s All of Us” commitment is that many of their organizations end up formally incorporating some variation of it into the core values they use to guide decision-making on a daily basis. They make “It’s All of Us” part of the way the company operates both internally and in the larger world … and as a result, they set up, and act on, opportunities for the organization and its employees to give something back to the larger community.
At these companies, “It’s All of Us” becomes a commitment to serve the larger world that the company’s people fulfil consistently, from the top down, both as individuals and as part of the group. They volunteer at food banks. They do community clean-ups. They help at homeless shelters. All because of the leader’s positive example in the workplace – and outside of it. This powerful leadership approach takes the concept of “It’s All of Us,” the concept of “we are all on this journey together,” to a whole new level – the level of community service.
This is an extremely important trend, and one I believe we should all notice, applaud, and encourage. Why? Because in recent years, the whole understanding of “community service” has gone through an unfortunate shift.
Whenever we hear the words “community service” in news stories, what do they usually refer to? Someone who’s committed a crime or gotten into legal trouble and who’s been hauled in front of a judge. As part of the sentence the judge hands down for whatever that person did wrong, there is a requirement that the offender perform a certain amount of “community service.”
Think about it. We see and hear this kind of story over and over again – and on one level, that’s a good thing, because these stories remind us that the judge has decided the offender is likely to learn something important about himself or herself by giving something back to the larger community. That part is great. But the downside is this: More and more, when people hear the words “community service,” they instinctively think of it as something that’s connected to punishment for doing something wrong!
Great leaders know community service isn’t our punishment. It’s our reward. It’s how we learn about ourselves. It’s part of our accountability to the society we live in. When we choose to take action to make a tangible, positive difference to the people in our community, when we choose to help create a better place for everyone to live, when we choose to follow through on the personal commitment of “It’s All of Us,” that’s a net gain for us as individuals.
Giving something back, not just to the team, but to the larger world, should never, ever be seen as a punishment. To the contrary, we all need to recognize and celebrate community service for what it is: one of our very best opportunities to learn and grow as people.
It really is all of us!
For more on the important concept of “It’s All of Us,” see my book No Matter What.