Effective leadership starts with leading yourself. If you want the best team possible, you must be ready to hold yourself accountable ahead of your staff. What does accountability have to do with leadership? Everything. I’ve supervised all kinds of people, from 16-year-old students to high-performing executives, and the most successful employees always share a positive approach to balanced accountability.
I spent years studying which accountability techniques work, and I broke them down into three elements: personal, positive, and performance – or The 3Ps. I challenged myself to test the process and once I started seeing significant improvements in my own work, I knew I was on to something. Here are The 3Ps – also known as my top three steps to winning hearts through trust and accountability:
P1: Personal Accountability
This is the most humbling and important “P” of the program. As a leader, you must hold yourself accountable before anyone else. I’ve learned that our employees really do want to follow in our footsteps. It’s human nature to mimic, right? It’s how we learn to function. You need to be ready to lead with self-awareness and humility. Ask for feedback on your own work, and focus on finding solutions to your struggles instead of playing a victim. You set the precedence for the rest of your team.
P2: Positive Accountability
Positivity is absolutely essential to getting the results you want. It’s how good managers become great leaders, and it’s a lot more enjoyable than being negative all the time.
Research tells us that positivity is just as contagious as negativity which means that creating positive experiences at work is worth it for winning morale. There are tried and true steps for this in my book, Balanced Accountability: Three Leadership Secrets To Win Hearts And Maximize Performance. They will help you reduce turnover, increase profitability, and make work a much more enjoyable place to be.
P3: Performance Accountability
This is more what you think of when you consider accountability. You know, like “holding someone accountable” for their actions? However, that kind of practice can be a big invitation to resist and resent your leadership. It is possible to hold someone accountable without using shame or punishment. Performance Accountability gives you the option to coach your staff to victory instead of penalizing them for their mistakes. You need to show your employees that you have faith that they will do their best. This is something I learned as a kid growing up on our family dairy farm in Idaho.
It was an all-hands-on-deck kind of operation, and I was given the task of milking our cow every day after school. I was nine years old and about 75 pounds, but I was being asked to establish authority over this comparatively huge creature. My first attempt was an absolute failure. All I had to show for my effort was a mess and a frustrated cow. Instead of finishing the task or asking for help, I just opened the gate and let her go graze instead of being milked.
Our cow could have easily developed an infection that rendered her milk useless for us and her newborn calf. My dad was furious, and he had to discipline me with the biggest spanking that I’ve ever received. My dad held me accountable and required me to finish the job correctly. My father held me to my obligation and gave me the opportunity to fix my mistake. I’m so grateful that I was taught this important lesson at such an early age. I reflect on this lesson every time I’m working on a task and want to stop because it’s getting too hard.
Abraham Lincoln said that “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” That might sound like a vague piece of wisdom, but there are clear cut tools for moving towards your aspirations. Hold yourself accountable above all else, keep a positive attitude, and recognize mistakes as opportunities to grow. The 3Ps are tried and true, and if you put them into practice, you’ll start seeing improvements all around. All you have to do is try.