If, like most of us, you have ever resolved to engage some process of self-improvement, you have probably confronted the sobering fact that saying something, even really wanting it, is not the same as doing it. Any effort to engage such a process readily reveals several realities:
- We all aspire to be better, to grow, to move toward our idea of excellence,
- We recognize that doing so is up to us and within our power, and
- Doing so means stepping outside the comfort zone of current patterns and doing things that we don’t always feel like doing.
If we look a bit deeper, we may also recognize that success is fostered by thoughtfully putting in place the conditions for success, by having a specific plan or strategy for achieving the desired results, and by sharing our intent with at least one person who can support, encourage, and hold us accountable to do what we said we would do.
Did you cringe just a bit when I suggested the idea of accountability to another? Most of us are naturally reluctant to be “held accountable” for any of a number of reasons. We don’t like the idea of reporting to someone else, especially in regard to our own goals and behavior. We may want others to affirm us when we do well, but don’t really want to hear about it when we have not. So, accountability has gotten a bad rap and we would generally rather avoid it. Yet, at some level we recognize that we avoid it to our own detriment, because it is a powerful tool in the support of excellence. Leaders, coaches, teachers, and supervisors know they can only be effective if they establish and maintain accountability with those they support. And teams can only be successful if team members call each other UP to do their part, to support the best in one another and in the way they deliver on their commitments to quality results.
The result of effective accountability is a sense of accomplishment, a sense of camaraderie, and the enjoyment of the fruits of excellence. Accountability builds trust with others. It builds integrity with ourselves. And it creates value in the life we live. In that sense, what you gain by being accountable is not as important as what you become by being accountable.
At work, creating a culture of integrity and accountability improves results to be sure, but at the same time fosters a respectful, invigorating, and enjoyable work environment. It replaces blaming and excuse making with responsiveness and cooperation. It breaks down silos, empowers teamwork, energizes creativity, enables adaptability in the face of challenge, and creates safe space in which to work.
SO, let’s all resolve not to treat accountability like it’s a four-letter word.