Baby Bear’s Bed Was Just RIght!

accountability candid conversation candor candor with care clear expectations discipline high expectation high performers holding employees accountable leadership leadership accountability management profitability profitability killers relationships signs of lack of accountability supervision Jul 20, 2023
Signs of Lack of Accountability

Do you remember the story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears? I can’t exactly recall how she got into their house, or even why she was in the area to begin with, but I do remember that she was tired and needed a nap. In trying each bed in the place, she found that Papa Bear’s was too hard, Mama Bear’s was too soft, but Baby Bear’s bed was just right!

If you really think about it, how we handle some of the tougher conversations we need to have around accountability should truly be more like Baby Bear’s bed. But all too often those end up being way too hard or way too soft - and either can make that slope we’re sliding down exponentially more slippery!

Before you’re completely convinced that I’m off my rocker, understand that for our conversations around accountability to be most effective, we need to be very intentional about balancing the candor necessary to accurately define the issue with the kind of care that assures our team member of their value to us as well as to the organization. Let’s be very honest with one another here, this can be one of the toughest skills for any leader to develop. And quite frankly, it’s one of the most common things Cindy and I held entire groups of leaders in organizations as well as individual leaders with.

As part of our Leading At The Next Level program I’ve mentioned a few other times recently, we built two lessons specifically for this. The one I wrote was called The Power of a Candid Conversation and Cindy followed that shortly after with one called How Leaders Improve Results by Balancing Candor With Care. Mine detailed the importance of having those conversations and hers provided a step-by-step guide a leader can use to prepare for the conversation. The two were received so well (and were applied by so many participants in that program) that we’ve since tailored them into workshops for the leadership teams in several organizations. 

The overarching message we deliver is that many people lean too hard one way or the other. While not necessarily on purpose, attempting to maintain a high level of accountability by using too much care can easily be misunderstood as accepting behavior that’s actually just not acceptable. I’ve seen this frequently be the case when the supervisor or manager was previously a peer of the team member they need to have the tough conversation with and they are concerned about hurting a longstanding relationship. On the other end of the spectrum, a manager who hasn’t built much of a relationship with their team members - for whatever reason - can easily be perceived as being far too candid, like swatting a fly on someone's forehead… with a hammer… 

The best accountability comes when there’s a healthy balance of the two. John Maxwell once shared it this way:

“Care without candor creates dysfunctional relationships. Candor without care creates distant relationships. But care balanced with candor creates developing relationships.”

In a conversation Cindy had about this with the CEO of Maxwell Leadership, Mark Cole, he told her that “Caring values the person while candor values the person’s potential.” Learning to blend the two as we take the steps to maintain a high level of accountability plays a critical role in addressing this profitability killer so that’s exactly what we’ll cover moving forward!