Freedom is Accountability

Part Two

Do you choose Accountability or Compliance?

This is Part Two of this article series on Accountability and Freedom. Click here to read Part One. You don’t want to miss the beginning of this story.

Joe Woodard says, “Confrontation is a positive interaction with a momentary negative emotional response.” While that definition has dramatically changed the way that I approach difficult conversations in a very good way, I have found that the length of the momentary negative emotional response can vary widely depending on who I am interacting with.

In C’s case, it lasted quite a while. I confronted C with her freedom, trying to show her that her choices had led her to where she is, and that she had another choice to make. She could either choose to learn and grow with the opportunities being presented, or she could choose not to.

When she skipped the class that was intended to be the equivalent of her final exam for her internship, I offered her an alternate assignment. I challenged her to write about what she had learned from her experiences in her internship with us. She asked about the required length of the essay, and I told her that it didn’t matter. What was important was that she actually put effort into her self-reflection and grow. I suggested that she go as deep as she could with it, and to see if she could find ways to take herself to the next level. She agreed to the writing assignment over choosing to leave the internship, and she put on airs that she was in agreement and that everything was fine.

Again, she was lying.

When C emailed me her 12 page essay a few days later, it came with an email notifying me that she had completed the required number of hours for her internship and informing me that she would not be fulfilling her commitment to come in for wrap-up and goodbyes.

The entire paper was a personal attack on me. She called me “sadist”, herself a “whore”, and even went so far as to say that the assignment itself was “rape.” I realized in that moment that these words were not coming from a person who was mentally whole. The negative emotions she must have felt were tangible in her writing. This was not coming from a place of wellness. She had chosen slavery.

I promptly forwarded the essay to C’s supervising professor at her university to let him decide the outcome of her pass/fail grade. I wanted to be done with this destructive influence I had allowed into my life.

Nonetheless, the stabs she had taken at me hurt. Part of me could see the unfortunate trap she had woven for herself. I knew that her words about me weren’t true, and I pitied her for the lies she bound herself in.

Part of me got lost in my own doubts.

The #1 fear of every entrepreneur is the fear of being called out as a fake. She knew that, as I had taught her about Impostor Syndrome, and she took advantage of it. She said the things that she knew would hurt the most.

What hurt even more was the betrayal of trust. Not once did she thank us for being her hosts, and she didn’t even acknowledge how much damage she had done. She abused our generosity and hospitality, taking advantage of us in our own home. I felt like I had failed in my commitment to her as mentor, and I allowed these doubts to gnaw at me.

It took me several months to stop taking her words and actions personally. Taking Ed Kless’s webinar on The Top Ten Business Myths re-framed the whole situation. My leadership skills were actually serving me very well, but we cannot save everyone. We can only reach out so far before we, too, fall out of the boat. I confronted C with her freedom by offering her that assignment, and C adamantly chose slavery through compliance. She had many other options available to her, including collaborating on another solution or choosing to leave. It seems that she thought rebellion in compliance gave her some moral high ground. She chose to make everyone around her an oppressor, and never took responsibility for the outcomes of the choices she had made.

As a result, my team made a fantastic new policy to add to our team manual:

No Fakes or Slaves Allowed.

This went into our Standards of Conduct section, where we list intolerable offenses that may result in immediate termination. In our book, this kind of behavior is right up there between theft and violence. Even in our small, employee-owned business model, it’s important to have clarity on where our hard boundaries are. C pointed out a big hole in the fabric of our corporate culture. Thanks to Ed Kless, we have now filled it with Truth and Freedom. What’s more, we have the tools to explain why it is important so that people can make an educated choice. C was not a good fit for us, and now we know how to see that trait in the future.

Accountability and Freedom Prevail.

Perhaps if I had this understanding and these tools when C was with us, I could have used them to help her redirect the situation. Maybe we could have developed an understanding that would bring her more happiness and success. Perhaps not. In the end, it is not my job to teach anyone anything, only to present opportunities to learn. Whether they choose to take those opportunities is up to them. These same ideas go hand in hand with the choices we need to make to break the poverty mindset.

I know now that I don’t need to continue to engage with people who are not interested in learning and growing. I know that freedom is accountability and accountability is freedom. That is how I am able to do big things with my life. I help others, and I endeavor to make the world a better place. I choose the company of others like me.

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications

Posted by Ingrid Edstrom