Accountability is a loaded idea in our culture and even more so in a family business – where notions of professional accountability and family ‘loyalty’ sometimes clash. We want folks to be accountable for their choices, actions and results, but we also want to show empathy for each other’s struggles and limitations, and patience with young people who are starting out and finding their way.
While I understand the parental desire to give our children the benefit of the doubt, or let them off the hook for a transgression that we can minimize in our minds – we don’t do them any favors by taking the ‘easy’ way. This pattern often starts early. When a child comes home with a bad grade and tells you that it is because the teacher doesn’t like them, their classmate makes noises and this is distracting, or a kid moved their book so they couldn’t find it – it is natural and tempting to sympathize with your child and agree that the deck was stacked against them, therefore we don’t need to hold them accountable.
Unfortunately, when family members have never really been held to account for their choices, actions or results, they have a hard time recognizing their role or responsibility in any situation. These are the family members always being derailed by things that are ‘outside their control,’ and when things go awry it is always someone else’s fault. Someone else failed to get them the numbers they needed to do their job, their kids are sick, the boss didn’t explain the task well, whatever.
Any adult who cannot take basic responsibility rapidly loses all credibility. In life there will always be hurdles and challenges to overcome. The contrast is stark, there are folks who are ‘doers’ who consistently find a way to get results despite the challenges, and there are those who will only complain and want sympathy for their plight. Pay attention – if you find that you spend a lot of time explaining to others why you couldn’t get something done – understand that eventually folks will simply count you out, they will decide in advance that you cannot get things done – and instead seek the input or work from folks who can.