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Monday, January 21, 2013

At the End of the Day...

Some of you may or may not know, but I work for a bank. I also happen to be a manager in the bank. Most recently, my boss decided to conduct something called a "360 degree" assessment in which a few of my direct reports and other peers reviewed me. While I haven't been told of the results entirely, my boss hinted of one of my major performance weaknesses. And before he even spoke the words, I pretty much guessed it anyway. It's a bit analogous to getting my kids to do their chores. In the working world, it's called "holding people accountable."

My daughter's dresser
Here's the thing about accountability. There's a distinction between how well expectations are communicated and how much you can expect one to be accountable for. Take our kids, for example. How many times do I ask Cole to brush his teeth before an orange crust forms over his enamel? Or how many times do I ask Alex to put away her clothes before dust settles on the pile–necessitating another washing? (Maybe I'm just not asking with a gnarly enough timbre in my voice.)

But on to adults, where I don't think I need to worry about the pitch of my voice, nor do I think I need to worry about eloquence so much. But I've certainly encountered situations at work when I've questioned whether I've communicated my expectations with clarity. Some expectations, granted, seem obvious. Like showing up for work. Yes, I tend to be that manager who gives second chances. Maybe too many second chances. And while it's easy for everyone to judge, opining that perhaps I'm a bit too lenient, I can't help but wonder if this time will be the second chance that will make a difference to someone. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't.

I'm a strong believer that we, as individuals, are accountable for our own destinies. But I know, in my heart, we should all keep encouraging those individuals who perhaps are struggling. Maybe that encouragement comes in the form of tough love, of which, undoubtedly, I have not mastered. But I think the key word in that phrase is, "love."

A few years ago Seth Godin wrote an eBook called Graceful, with the subtitle "making a difference in a world that needs you." I scanned the book,  pondering this issue of accountability. And as I reflected on some of the themes of the book, I determined something. I probably wouldn't have changed any managerial actions I have taken in the past. And I'm not so sure my approach will change much in the future. If it does, I only hope it's because I am becoming more...graceful.

I'll wrap up this blog with a few these quotes from the book.  Certainly, they're worthy of more reflection...

"Kindness creates connection. It generates respect (on both sides) and it scales."

"People seek meaning. Will you offer to them?"

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