Accountability Starts with You! Excuse me?

There is a good chance you have found this article as a leader or trainer trying to figure out how to hold people accountable.

Funny thing, accountability. Ask almost anyone if they hold themselves accountable and you will receive one of several replies: ‘Of course!’, ‘Sure!’, ‘I do, but no one else seems to!’. Notice the emphasis.

Then recently I was reading a book about personal accountability and read this statement:

‘Accountability starts with you!’

I could not stop laughing.

I pictured Abraham Lincoln pointing a finger at me while saying very loud and with feeling, ‘Accountability starts with you!’

Houston, we have a problem.

Abe, buddy, turn that finger around.

I understand what the meaning was supposed to be and I even understand it was well intentioned. But that is not what it says. Let’s be correct and accurate if we are talking about accountability.

Accountability starts with me.

Let’s say what we mean, people. Don’t let Abe or ourselves off the hook here. Let’s hold ourselves accountable for saying what we mean. Which means what I should REALLY be saying is ‘I will hold myself accountable and say what I mean’. See how easy it is to fall into the ‘We’ trap?

Nevertheless, poor Abe is guilty of something we all do at some point. We point fingers. We look to find some outside source to blame for our circumstances. We rage, we yell.

· ‘It was the xyz department.’
· ‘It was the xyz department that forgot to ________.’
· ‘It wasn’t my idea.’
· ‘We could sell more if we had xyz.’
· ‘My manager doesn’t spend enough time with me to train me right.’
· ‘My manager interferes too much.’
· ‘My employees just stand around every chance they get.’
· ‘It’s Not My Fault!, and my personal favorite,
· ‘It’s not my job.’

Sound familiar? As the Founder and CEO of Be Legendary, I do this EVERY day and you probably do too. This is victim thinking. What will any of those statements do to solve the problem? Nothing.

How often do we look inside and ask ourselves, ‘What could I have done to make that situation better?’ When I answer for myself?, Not too often. is what I get and I teach this shit!

Honestly, I find I have to work very hard to not blame. It is so much easier that trying to work out a solution. Venting frustration, yelling & screaming – indulge and give yourself a solid 90 seconds and then get back to the solution because no amount of boucing off the walls is going to fix anything.

I am no pillar of strength. I fall into the same cycle as everyone else. I blame, mostly my wife. She is a handy target. But I will choose anyone so that I don’t feel responsible and accountable who is involved. And I don’t do this on purpose. It is a habit, and not just a habit at home or at work. I carry it back and forth from home to work with me every morning and night.

How do we stop this cycle of non-accountability, even with ourselves? We already know the answer, the difficulty is sticking to it. It requires discipline and willingness to be uncomfortable. You cannot hide inside the safety of your shell and expect accountability to suddenly occur, in yourself or in those around you.

When is the subject of accountability brought up most? When it is CYA time. Very few discussions about accountability are held when things are going well. Why is that? Wouldn’t that be the best time for it? No one is in trouble yet. Everyone is on the same moral high-ground in the beginning. Establish the ground rules for accountability from the start. However, in today’s busy, fast-paced business world, there is simply not time. Or so I am told when a leader is not holding themselves accountable for holding other accountable.

To illustrate personal accountability in it’s best form, I have a short story to tell.

I have recently been working with an employee of a particular company whose department was no longer operating at peak performance. This person was unhappy with their current work environment and was extremely concerned and frustrated.

This person mistakenly signed up for our free organizational assessment (no longer available) thinking that they would get an answer about her culture in five minutes or so with some great advice on some action they might be able to take.

After this person took the survey and asked where the report was, I explained the survey is for an organization. We needed more people for an analysis.

Most people would simply have said, ‘Thanks for nothing’, but this person made the decision to hold herself accountable and make something happen.

Email was very difficult in their organization, so she printed the survey, made copies, distributed them, collected them and them inputted ALL the data from each survey by hand. She finished with 46 out of 52 people completing the survey. Each survey having 51 multiple choice answers and four open-ended questions. 46 surveys, all by hand. She even typed in all of the comments in the open-ended questions. Do you realize the work involved with that?

This person is the epitome of personal accountability and the antithesis of apathy. At some point she made the decision to be ‘part of the solution’ and has put in huge amounts of work on her own time to help improve the work environment for herself, her colleagues and her company. By the way, this company was already in the top 2% of their industry for customer service and known throughout the world as one of the best companies in the world.

As a leader, what are YOU willing to do to achieve these kinds of results?

The aware person will recognize when personal accountability is lacking in his or her own life.

The wise person will listen to feedback openly.

And the courageous person who will say “Okay, I’ll do what it takes to change and improve my own life.”

Let’s challenge ourselves and try to be all three — aware, wise and brave. Accountability starts with me!

A team with no accountability is no team.

As a leader, answer these questions with 100% honesty:

How am I showing accountability to my team?
Do I hold my team accountability or am I afraid of hurting their feelings / the conflict that will result?
Do I just want to be the ‘good guy’ and have everyone like me?

If you want a system for accountability, check out Awesome Boss. Fair warning, Awesome Boss is not for information gatherers, it is all about action and NOT an instant fix.

P.S. In a recent update from the employee above who remained anonymous to her company out of fear of retribution, the company (large, multi-billion dollar international service organization) has made a number of company-wide changes recently that were directly related to many of the comments and results from the organizational assessment. Who ever said that one person does not make a difference?

Contact us to bring a specialist in personal accountability into your organization. Contact us at 800-513-8759.


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