New announcement. Learn more

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
Earnest Hemingway.


Accountability - the art of telling the truth in love.

I work with a lot of teams and the one thing most teams score the lowest in their team assessment is Accountability. It is especially hard in teams that like each other too. I have found that accountability can be misunderstood. I have seen it done badly with people being shamed into compliance, and I have also seen people getting away with behaviour that hurts the team and the organisation and the damage that does too. Accountability is an act of love, not only for that person but for the others that are suffering.

Most of us are not comfortable with giving people feedback when they are under performing or worse their behaviour is hurting the team. People who feel nothing or enjoy it concern me because I question their motives. When you care about someone it should be uncomfortable to bring them something that at the moment may be painful and potentially embarrassing, especially if it is a blind spot.

Meaningful and impactful accountability requires trust. When we feel safe with others and know that they have our best interest at heart it is easy to receive feedback that will sting.

Accountability shouldn’t be left as a job for leaders only, when we have a team that trusts one another and that is good at hashing it out to get to the best decisions and then fully commit to them, they should have no trouble at holding each other accountable.

When we understand that it is an “act of love” it will give us the courage we need to have that difficult conversation. If you care about someone and want to see them develop and grow, having that conversation takes on a new meaning. It could be an incredible moment of growth for both of you.

Feedback isn’t always easy to hear especially if it is a blind spot. Being mindful and creating the space for someone to receive and process that new information constructively is key. Remember SARAH, my friend Jo McFadden told me about this model earlier this year and it is so good. This is what the person will be going through:

S – Shock. Sometimes you don’t even realise you are doing something that isn’t helpful or even hurtful. It can be a genuine shock to people.
A – Anger. They may respond in anger, either openly or quietly. Allow them the space, don’t make it about you. Hold that space for them in a non-judgemental way.
R – Resistance. They may resist the information that you are giving them and say things like “Well that’s just me, take it or leave it”. They may experience intense shame around this and it will be good to help them realise that we all have blind spots. Empathy is a great way to combat shame. Share a story of when you received some hard feedback and how it turned out. They may need some time to reflect on it for a day or two.
A – Acceptance. Wise people receive feedback, take the time to process it and adjust once they have had time to reflect. Unwise people can stay in the resistance phase and may even decide to reject the feedback altogether and blame others. In my experience, these people then have to protect themselves from further feedback, this will limit their growth.
H – Help. This was added later and help can come in all forms. i.e. Coaching. They may need help learning new skills that can help them improve their behaviour or performance.

Remember, it is an act of love to have that uncomfortable conversation, and you get to be part of someone’s growth journey. Love them enough to not leave them or the team in an unproductive or hurtful situation. Teams suffer when we don’t do it. People become resentful and it creates unnecessary anxiety for people. As Pat Lencioni says, “be a little j jerk and give them that feedback”. 😊

Hold the space for that person to build a way forward.


This product has been added to your cart