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Forgiveness and Accountability Go Hand-in-Hand
Great leaders are forgiving people. They discourage team members from hiding or underplaying mistakes and failures by quickly forgiving them for errors.
Sanctions and reprimands are reserved for those who cover up mistakes, not for those who acknowledge them. Leaders who forgive rather than punish will create a team climate where learning is held in higher regard than blame. This motivates team members to do even better.
Once forgiven, team members are held accountable in a way that motivates, rather than demoralizes, them. For skilled leaders, holding people accountable for their failures is about solution, not punishment.
Even when quickly forgiven for the error or misstep, team members are expected to chart a path forward. They are asked to produce a plan as to how they will rectify or remedy the mistake. Good leaders don’t offer the first solution or strategy to resolve or manage the situation. The person who made the mistake does.
Forgiveness and accountability go hand-in-hand. They complement each other by emphasizing the importance of unconditional support AND personal ownership over problems.
Mistakes and failures are a happenstance of getting work done. No one can avoid an occasional blunder. Forgiveness elevates the importance of the relationship, while accountability recognizes that the person responsible must fix it. In combination, they work to instill a sense of fairness that team members appreciate and feel motivated by.
Unfortunately, the dysfunctional metaphor of the leader as a taskmaster still influences many contemporary organizations. Punishing people for mistakes by expressing disappointment and withholding rewards is still far too common in many workplaces.
In reality, penalizing people for anything other than a colossal mistake is a surefire way to destroy team morale and encourage people to cover up anything that goes wrong. While getting tasks done efficiently and effectively is important, the idea that the primary role of a leader is to reward and punish the actions of team members was discredited long ago. Some news travels slowly.
Forgiving team members quickly for their mistakes and then asking them to propose a remedy can work wonders to inspire them to raise their game. This also treats failures as an opportunity for learning and growth. When failures and mistakes are viewed by the leader and the team as an opening for development, team members become quick to acknowledge errors and own them.
Forgiveness is an attitude. Accountability is a discipline. Marry the two together and leaders connect the past and the future in a way that compassionately develops people. Sounds like a winner.