BY: AUTUMN MCBRIDE (TAU, BRENAU UNIVERSITY), ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION INITIATIVES
Does accountability make you nervous? Do you create a plan for what you are going to say and when? It's time to push yourself further and lean into any possible discomfort. The heart of accountability is a way of thinking! To make a difference and change behavior as part of effective accountability, the head and the heart must work together, and the best way to do that is to use empathy.
Empathy is the ability to identify and understand another’s situation, feelings, perceptions, concerns and needs. Empathy is different from sympathy and teaches us to act with compassion. When we lead with accountability and empathy, our relationships are strengthened, and we can build relationships and effectively communicate with others in new ways.
It’s not empathy vs. accountability because great leaders use both! As you continue to encourage belonging in your personal and professional circles, here are three actionable steps you can implement to promote accountability while remaining empathic.
Build Trust, Believe the Best
So often, we find ourselves expecting the worst. We panic, hide from accountability and feel shame when we make mistakes. As a member of Alpha Chi Omega, you are encouraged to believe the best in others when there is a gap between the expectations and experience of a relationship. We have all stumbled on our journey to seek the heights, but when we are willing to build trust and commit to humility and openness, we grow.
Set Clear and Concise Expectations
When we have accountability conversations, we want to remember to focus on what we want to accomplish. Keeping an end goal in mind will help keep the conversation aligned and the expectations clear. For example, Anna may want her coworker Olive to understand how her actions are being negatively interpreted, so she respectfully addresses the concerns and helps determine a solution with Olive that can help Olive avoid causing harm again.
Create Effective Communication Channels
Individuals flourish when they feel heard and are part of a community. However, it can be challenging to foster this sense of belonging when communication is scattered across multiple platforms such as 10 GroupMe groups, a Facebook group, a text message thread, and an email chain. Consider utilizing a phone call, face-to-face communication or a video conferencing platform like Zoom to promote productive communication. As leaders, we won’t have to choose between empathy and accountability when we create an environment and effective communication channels that promote both!
Continue reflecting on how you can implement accountability and empathy in your daily life, and remember we must hold people accountable for their missteps AND their successes. By doing so, we are creating a culture of belonging. This culture doesn’t just call attention to shortcomings but uplifts and celebrates sisters who continue to grow and embrace the interconnected and diverse world in which we live!
Did you learn something new? Feeling inspired and want to share your thoughts or personal experience with belonging through your Alpha Chi Omega experience? Share your story now!