Accountability. Its a word we all know. According to Merriam-Webster it’s an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility. It’s a lesson we teach our kids because we know it’s important. But how often do we stop to think about why it’s important? And if we are being honest with ourselves, do we really walk the talk that often?
I think accountability is beautiful! In it’s rawest form it’s a statement to the world that I did this or played a role in it. When things go well, we call it ’taking the credit.’ When they go poorly, its ‘accepting the blame’. Recently I have been paying attention to how often we take accountability. Unfortunately, it’s pretty rare. It’s something that is easy to talk about but difficult to live by. Our society has gotten to the point where skirting the blame is the norm. When you have a headache, it must be the noisy streets (it couldn’t be your poor diet or being dehydrated). When I am stressed, it must be my job (there’s no way its the lack of exercise or my ability to over-analyze everything). It makes sense. Pointing the finger is easy and helps us feel as if we moved past the problem, at least for that moment. But there is danger in skirting the blame. It removes your ability to change the situation. When you hold yourself accountable, you are owning your role in the problem. And by acknowledging your role, you give yourself an opportunity to change things. You are no longer a helpless victim on the sideline, but an active participant with influence, a beating heart, and power! The beauty in being accountable is not that it is the right thing to do; it’s that being accountable puts you in the driver seat and enables you to make the change you want to see. And that sort of empowerment is liberating.
On top of that, being accountable doesn’t just benefit you. It benefits those around you. I’m sure we’ve all been the part of a team at one time or another. Sometimes the team accomplishes more than any of us could imagine, other times it inches forward at half the pace I can move myself. Why are teams effective sometimes and frustrating others? Although there are always multiple factors at play, accountability constantly makes the list. In my experience, ineffective teams are often due to certain members not carrying their weight and/or confusion as to who is responsible for what. A simple way to help avoid these pitfalls is to hold yourself accountable. When you recognize your role, you set a tone for your teammates. All without pointing fingers. From here you can see how the team responds. Some folks may do less. Good to know, they will not be on the team next time. Others dive in, eager to meet the standard you’ve established. And when things get rough, even better. Step up to the plate and own your part. In my experience your team will pay you back with trust and loyalty. In the short term, there may be growing pains. Some staff may leave. Others may try to carry the world on their shoulders. But in the long-term, those that stick around will model your behavior and being accountable will become part of “the way we do things here”. When everyone owns their part, we spend less time pointing fingers and more time doing what we do best. And that’s how I want to spend my day.
Over the next couple days pay attention to personal accountability. How often do people own their contribution? How often do they skirt the blame? How often do you? At the very least you’ll learn something about yourself and the people around you. Maybe you’ll see the beauty in being accountable. Maybe you’ll regain that little bit of power you need to change something thats been bothering you for far too long.