As I drove into the office this morning, I reflected on several conversations I had yesterday that were focused on three words - accountability, transparency and vulnerability. Specifically, I had two conversations with groups of people that helped me better understand these three little - yet powerful - words. People often use words quickly - and maybe even without thinking about what they mean. I have colleagues and friends who are willing to challenge me on words I use - and in turn sharpen my personal thinking, which increases my ability to lead.
In the afternoon, the team on which I serve had a dialogue on our accountability to each other. I have been feeling guilty lately about not getting tasks accomplished in a timely manner. I can blame it on too much to do...I can blame it on tasks that do not play to my strengths...I can blame it on moving targets...I can blame it on the weather...I can even blame it on my own mother. At then end of the day, I have let items slip - and so have some of my teammates. So we had a great dialogue on how to be more accountable to each other and hold each other more accountable. Of course the dialogue focused on all of the items we DON'T have done and the tasks we have NOT yet finished. And then one of my colleagues reminded us of the other side of the ledger sheet - that the other side of accountability to taking "account" of the tasks we HAVE accomplished, the goals we HAVE made and the promises we HAVE kept to each other. Having the ability to take account (read: account-ability) means balancing the books and not always focusing on one side over the other. I realized then that if I am to hold others accountable (and hold myself accountable) then I need to do it in a manner that takes in the whole of the organization and the person...that which has not been done and that which has been done. In other words, I need to balance the books - I need to keep track of my accounts - I need to improve my account-ability.
Later in the evening, while teaching in The Concordia MBA, I had the privilege of having Dr. Andy Neillie speak with my class. Toward the end of the conversation, we discussed the difference between TRANSPARENCY and VULNERABILITY. He put it this way - being TRANSPARENT means I will let you know things about me and about the organization...in other words, I will pull away the curtain so you can better see what is there. Being VULNERABLE means that once I have let you see all there is of me and the organization, I will now let you tell me what you see and how it might be improved. Andy is a speaker who travels the country helping people move their leadership ability to the next level. Part of his talk is to tell his personal story - and he does it in a way that moves others to action. He is being TRANSPARENT with them and it works...but then he leaves. The leader who stops there miss out on a very powerful tool to change herself, to change others, and to change the organization. When one becomes VULNERABLE, they are giving others the permission to think deeper, to speak their thoughts, and to engage ins a dialogue that can move the individuals and the organization forward. I think in a day and time where social media is ever present and information is easy to find, leaders and organizations will have to be more and more transparent. It may even become the way of doing business into the future. Vulnerability is still reserved for the courageous few who are willing to listen and change...who are willing to look deep inside themselves...who are not going to become defensive...who live and breathe the mission and vision of the organization...who have mastered the art of emotional intelligence...and who are willing to say. "I might be wrong."
Thanks to my friends and colleagues for holding me accountable to my words - and for reminding me of how three little words can also be so powerful.