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Leaders Know the Power of Holding Others CAPABLE

Apr 27, 2024

“Don’t chase after success, chase after capability.  If you are capable of anything, then success will be chasing you.”

                                                                                                         - Meme


I love the distinction from my good friend, Kelly Anne Zielinski, CEO of Self Leadership Global, often shares, “It is much more effective to hold someone capable, than to hold them accountable.” 


In studying attributes of success in the world of leadership, the concept of accountability is often identified for its importance and effectiveness.  Taking personal accountability for the choices we make, the actions we take and the results we achieve is a critical attribute of anyone looking to work as an effective leader.   


However, when working with others in a leadership or coaching role, I have often found that “holding someone accountable” may not be the most effective way of inspiring and guiding them to achieve the results they desire. 


Accountability can at times come across as judgmental, pressuring and even punitive. As a result, holding someone “accountable” can actually be counter-productive in guiding others to achieve the results they desire.  A negative connotation to the word can exist that inevitably creates separation between the leader and those who they are mentoring.


On the other hand, “holding someone capable” has a much more positive and empowering tone. 


When one feels that a person they respect sees potential greatness in them and is willing to hold them to that standard, it can be a great motivator for them to show their best. In this way, they are coming from a place of empowerment and possibility rather than simply committing to an activity to avoid the risk of disappointing themselves and their mentor if they fail to complete their assigned task. 


To be clear, I am not suggesting that if a person does something wrong against another or society, that they should not be held accountable for their actions.  What I am suggesting is that inspiring and motivating others, helping them to realize and embrace their vast potential and having them take action from that point is a much more effective way of producing results.


Pondering this concept made me think about the many youth I have been blessed to teach throughout the years.  I know that both as a father and a martial arts instructor there have been times that I have taught, guided and disciplined my sons and students using the concept of accountability.  Sometimes it was effective, however, many other times it landed far short of its intended result, leading to disappointment and frustration on both of our behalves.


What seemed to work best was I was enrolling them in their capacity for being empowered, proactive and responsible and then guiding them in a plan to achieve their desired results.  When they fully embraced their capabilities to make impactful decisions and take empowered action, they were much more intentional in completing the tasks and projects or showing up in a way that was reflective of those empowered ways of being. 


In essence, what has come clear to me is this………


“We can’t hold someone truly accountable, if we haven’t taught them who or what they’re capable of being."

Whether its parenting, coaching or mentoring, here are four things we can focus on when holding others capable.


  • Share the capabilities you see in them – Sometime all someone needs, is to have someone they respect, identify and claim their greatness for them. I have shared often how when I was 13 years old, my martial arts instructor helped to take my life on a totally different and positive trajectory when he said to me, “I will make you a champion.”.  While he used the word “champion” in his proclamation to me (which certainly brought up images of tournament glory in my mind), what I really heard him say is “I believe in you.”  That is all I needed to propel me in the direction of my dreams.


  • Set the vision – create the possibility– Assisting others in seeing the most powerful vision for themselves is the mark of a great leader. Oftentimes, it is difficult for someone to see themselves in successful situations because they have no frame of reference for what they are looking to do. 


Certainly, role modeling effective behavior is a critical element of an effective leader.  If those you lead can effectively relate to you, that’s great.  However, if there seems to be too great of a gap between you and those you are mentoring because of your age or status, ask them how a person with whom they may relate more closely (a peer, a sibling, a teammate) would show up being and what actions they would take to move towards their intended desire. 


  • Agree to a plan (that they create)– While it may be easy for someone in a leadership role to give very specific tasks for their mentee to undertake, I have found that someone is much more likely to complete agreed to work if they have taken the leadership in creating the plan. Most people are much more apt to take action and finish commitments if they have personal ownership of the plan and results.


  • Review progress/Renew the goal – One of my good friends always says you need to “inspect what you expect”. Once capabilities have been identified, the vision has been set and the plan created, it is vital to have regular “check-ins” to monitor progress, reinforce “capabilities” and redefine next steps.  Unusually done on a weekly or monthly basis, these “capability meetings” can reinforce that vision, mindset and actions of the mentee and can help to establish or re-establish the ways of being and the consistent actions to create success.


This week I challenge all of us to find someone (maybe even ourselves) that we can help to hold capable versus accountable and watch how developing a more confident and vision focused person can lead to breakthrough results.


Chris Natzke

Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching

PS:  If you are looking to hold yourself capable to achieving a breakthrough result in your life and/or business, click the link below to set up a 30-minute discovery call to discuss my upcoming Breaking Through Coaching Program.


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