I’m here today to talk about accountability. We put so much emphasis on holding people “accountable” and having the “right” accountability. Usually, this looks like taking the responsibility off the individual or employee and shifting it to the leader or manager.
The problem with this model is that the only person we can truly be accountable for is ourselves.
When I was 25, my husband and I bought into my parents’ business and became co-managers with a sweat equity agreement of full ownership after a few years. I walked into the partnership with a big mission. The problem was, I never stopped to ask my parents what their mission was. They’d been running their business for 24 years before I came on board, and I walked in with my own agenda and what I thought was right. And I made them wrong every step of the way.
My dad’s vision was to keep the business small and impact the immediate community. My vision was to grow the company so we could take our mission to a national level. While the business did grow and small changes were made over time, the way those changes happened cost everyone time and stress and money because there was no unity and very little personal responsibility on all sides. At the center of everything was blame. I blamed my dad for not dreaming bigger. My dad blamed me for the extra stress and costs I put on the business with the changes I was making.
As you can imagine, with two extremely stubborn people running the company—me and my dad—and two completely different ideas for the mission and vision and legacy of what the company should leave, it was only a couple years before the whole thing blew up in my face. By having my own agenda and not asking the right questions, by coming in and just making my dad’s vision wrong, everybody lost. It wasn’t until I completely burned out that I started asking the right questions.
My dad is a first-generation man from France who had absolutely no support when he started his life here. As a self-made man, he didn’t gravitate toward a career that was privileged, with college and a degree. He had other things to worry about, like learning English and feeding his family. There were no resources for him, so he had to make his own, which often involved relying on and building up the community around him.
There was no one else to be held “accountable” for my father’s successes and failures. He could only be accountable to himself.
I never stood back and appreciated what my father had built. I just came in and judged it because it didn’t look how I thought it should look. The fact is, my dad never set out to be a “leader.” His priorities were providing for his family, building something sustainable out of what was available to him, and having a positive impact on the community around him. He was completely successful in this vision. To this day, my dad still has two employees who have worked for him since they were 15 years old.
My dad’s mission and vision weren’t wrong. They just weren’t mine.
Once I accepted this fact, I very quickly realized that I had done enough for my dad’s business. I didn’t need to manage it anymore because it was now successfully achieving the vision my father had set out. We replaced myself with someone who could be content to carry out his mission. And I founded my own company with my own vision and mission that I could take worldwide.
We put so much pressure on holding leaders “accountable” when the responsibility really lies with us. We have to start taking responsibility for our calling, our purpose, and our mission in life. If you physically cannot do that in your current place of work, it’s your responsibility to find the place where you can start cultivating your purpose and allowing it to take root.
When you stay in a place that doesn’t suit you, it’s a double loss: not only are you suffering, but the people out there who actually want and could benefit from your impact don’t have it because you’re keeping yourself stuck as a victim in what you consider a shitty workplace. Well, guess what? That shitty workplace” existed before you and it will exist after you. And that same workplace has been working for many people, and it’s not our responsibility to change the culture that’s working for many.
Quit making the world wrong just because something doesn’t work for you.
The employee mindset has to change. We all are leaders. It’s time to start looking inward to create the change we want to see.
Are you ready to start being truly accountable to your own mission, vision, and purpose in life?
It starts now!