I have a few different “accountability” gatherings I participate in each month. “Accountability” isn’t a great word for them but it will have to do for now.
These are individuals and small groups with whom I have established an intimate and trustworthy rapport and from whom I receive both the space and the grace to rely on it. I expect and am expected to actually “show up” in these encounters, to enter into conversation that is revelatory for the purpose of personal learning and group cohesion.
We strengthen the integrity of our relationships one layer of authentic interaction at a time. And it is in that way that these are “accountability” gatherings. We are not looking for the best from one another, we are just looking to bring out what “is” right now and learn from it.
What I have learned in the 15 years of participating in these kind of conversations is that it is when I least feel like attending that I most need to.
Just last week, a few hours before one of these gatherings, I made a quick mental list of all of the reasons I could and should cancel. What I was struggling to admit to myself is that I didn’t want to talk about “what is right now” because I was feeling lost about what to do about it. I didn’t want to feel that lack of control in an explicit way so I considered going for the escape hatch.
But I didn’t open it and I am so, so thankful that I was able to right myself, show up as planned and receive the extraordinary benefit of a listening ear and some thoughtful questions.
Avoidance and resistance are the key ingredients in the recipe we call fear. It’s not one we have to make, tempting though it may be to do so. And to be reminded of that, yet again, by people who truly care about my well-being, marks another humbling step on the path of my life.
There are many, many bright and thoughtful people who will be happy to tell you which path to follow. It’s much easier to play armchair quarterback with someone else’s life so opinions come freely and often.
The tyranny of “they” afflicts us in two ways:
First, it supports our reservations about declaring our path through an invasive voice that asks, “What will they think?”
Second, it muddies our efforts at clarity by allowing too many theys to have a say.
They are vital for support, strength and guidance. But only a select few. For my money, this is a combination that works well:
One person who loves you unconditionally; a person who only wants the best for you and will take extraordinary measures to make sure that you get it.
One person who respects you; someone who is familiar with your work but has an arm’s-length distance in personal matters. This person believes in you and holds a broad and diverse perspective.
One person who challenges you; someone who has a track record of telling it to you straight. They don’t suffer fools and aren’t concerned about offending. You’ve probably disagreed with them before and will again.
When I finally decided to leap a number of years ago, my wife said “Of course…we will make it work.” A former boss said “Let’s talk this through” and coached me to the strategies vital to successful first steps. And an associate spoke plainly about the potential pitfalls ahead.
In the end, the decision was mine. And it was made with loving, respectful and challenging support.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.
The ocean is predictable…consistent.
You’re not going to go to sleep tonight worried about whether or not the waves will be coming to shore.
But I wonder, do you go to sleep feeling the same way about your boss?
Does he or she show up every day as you expect them to, as you need them to?
Do they have a “low tide”? A period when they give you the space to do what they hired you to do?
Do they have a “high tide”? A time when they get involved, providing direction and support as specifically as you need it?
The waves may not come onshore tonight. The ocean may not ebb and flow. But it probably will.
And your boss should, too.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.