As a leader, sometimes it is necessary to have difficult conversations. It usually has to do with accountability. A couple of weeks ago, I needed to have a stern conversation with my son about being responsible. As a parent, my job is not to be his friend but to be his father. My job is to teach him right from wrong now so that society doesn’t have to teach him the hard way later in life. I was very stern in informing him that I had high expectations and on this particular issue, he was not meeting the mark. Needless to say, he was not very happy. He is about to become a teenager and thinks that he knows way more than he actually does.
My son did what a lot of people do. He tried to tell me that I was being too harsh. He tried to say that it was my fault. He tried to get others involved (his friends) for support. Finally, he tried to distance himself from the problem by trying to lie his way out of it. What he discovered was that this only made matters worse. He ended up having to tell additional lies to cover the first lie. Eventually, it all caught up to him when the truth was exposed. It also took a lot more time to deal with instead of the short time that it would have taken to deal with the original problem. Worse, not only was he still being held responsible for the original issue, he now was responsible for fixing the mess that he created by lying. It ended up costing him time, money and tarnished his reputation.
This is not a situation that only occurs at home. It happens at work as well. I have had employees who were not happy that I was actually holding them accountable. Some have complained to the Office of Human Resources, some have tried to file formal complaints. Others simply complained to fellow employees or my supervisor about how they were being treated. When I was asked, I calmly stated what I asked for and produced documentation to show what I did and why. I also showed how I was consistent in holding all employees to similar standards. What usually happened was the complaint just went away. In some cases, I had to formally testify but in the end, I was proven to be right. I don’t say this to brag but to say don’t be afraid to hold someone accountable.
As a leader, you must hold people to high standards. Don’t let anyone scare you into lowering your standards. You must teach people what is expected, train them, and then hold them accountable. If they do not achieve the standard that you are looking for, then you also must hold them accountable. Employee Engagement surveys show that people actually want to be held accountable. If you treat people fairly, follow established procedures (or the law), and are consistent in applying the consequences, then you have nothing to worry about. Good people will follow you and bad ones will run in the opposite direction.
As for my son, he also learned a very valuable lesson. He learned that most leaders operate the same way. He learned that if he wanted to become a leader himself, he had to do the right thing and be accountable for his actions. He also learned that Dad is doing the right things for the right reasons – to help him and not to hurt him. That is what good leadership is all about, helping others. I only hope that someday, he will understand – just like I did when I was his age. Thanks Dad.