The Straight Truth


Harry the Contrary

The person who leaves accountability education with a mindset of “I hope these people were listening because they really needed it” is the one who needs it most.

A participant I’ll call “Harry the Contrary” spent just a few minutes in the accountability education session with his peers before he sat back satisfied it was exactly what they needed. During his one-to-one coaching he explained that he was going to wait and see if the “training” took. In other words, he got nothing from the education and was going to be right about how unaccountable every one was.

Harry the Contrary gave me two examples:

  1. Ellen doesn’t finish her reports on time and when I don’t get the work when it is due I can’t finish my work that goes on to the executive team. There is no way I am going to send off incomplete work so I get the information myself, plug it in and make sure it gets sent in on time.
  2. Ted tries to fill the shoes of the manager he replaced but he just doesn’t have it. I know his personal situation so I can’t really pull the plug on his role so I help him as much as I can but at some point, he’s got to pull his weight.

“I spend countless hours fixing what they need to be accountable for. Now let’s see if they got the message in your accountability session and will do it.” I can guarantee you they won’t. Why would someone whose boss or colleague takes care of her or his lack of performance change? That makes no sense.

What does make sense is starting from owning your role in why people do not step up to their accountability. Sure, there are personal circumstances for all of us that, in the short term could impact our ability to be fully present and accountable. But, absent that short-term obstacle, what’s the excuse in the long-term if the same thing happens over and over again in slightly different form? You know the type, it’s always something at the last minute that forces your hand to work around them and get it done. How do you contribute this on-going lack of accountability in someone else?

Have The Conversation You Need To Have

In Harry the Contrary’s examples here are what those conversations could sound like:

  1. Ellen“Ellen, in the past, I’ve taken care of it when your information is not forthcoming on time. If there has been an error in what you hand in I have corrected it. I’m going to stop doing that. Going forward, late or incorrect is a performance issue. I’ll document so that you get accurate feedback about what’s not working that has to improve. If it’s late, I’ll leave the information blank and if it’s wrong I’m not going to correct it. I’ll give it back to you to fix. Up to now I have just taken care of it and I realize that may mean you like me as your boss or colleague but I’ll take the chance that, although difficult, the better thing to do is hold you accountable to do your job. It is entirely possible you have feedback or input for me because I could be seeing this inaccurately so I’d like your input or feedback.”
  2. Ted “Ted, you’ve been in the manager job for 9 months and it’s just not working. I have rescued, fix and saved three situations in the past three months and my actions are contributing to a false picture of how we are meeting our goals. This is really hard to communicate and I want to know what your experience of taking the role has been and how you see things.”

These conversations as an example, coming from ownership of the problem in total are completely different than, “I hope you were listening in the accountability education.” A statement like this is a red flag that the person who needed to hear it the most was smugly nodding and thinking “Finally, someone who agrees with me that these slackers are not accountable and need to be.” For my part as the educator of accountability in the group, it’s the last thing I’m thinking. Unaccountable people love their influence on others. It’s powerful and manipulative and so easy. All they have to count on is those who will never have the conversation they need to have that they are not having.

Dig Deep and Let Go of Being Right

Harry the Contrary is more committed to being right about “them” than shifting the focus on himself and considering his role in keeping the lack of accountability alive and well. When it’s suggested to the Harrys of the world that the problem starts with them the contrarian in them gets supercharged and they go right to work dismissing any evidence this could be so. Not always though. If it is approached without judgment and true detachment whether Harry the Contrary changes, I’ve seen a shift happen. “You can keep doing what you are doing Harry and hope ‘they’ change, or you can consider you are at the epicenter of all that you see is wrong with them. Or, at the very least how you are furthering their lack of accountability to make sure nothing changes and you are right.”

A garden grows best with soil that is prepared with the sustenance of support that is a match for what is being grown. Harry the Contrary has some internal digging to do if he wants to hit pay dirt after an accountability session that was more for him than “them.”