The most controversial part of self-mastery is accountability. Life seems to be more fun when you are not accountable for your actions. Any focus on accountability causes such a reaction that I want first to define what I mean. Accountability is the willingness to claim 100% ownership for the results that are a consequence of your actions.
There is an expectation of accountability, which means that someone will hold you answerable for the outcome of your actions or inactions. Accountability is associated with delegated authority and is distinct from responsibility. A person can assign responsibility but cannot give away his/her accountability. There is a difference between responsibility and accountability: responsibility is the obligation to act; accountability is the obligation to answer for an action.
Usually, when I bring this up, people get defensive. I may ask why something was not done or was done and immediately get a lot of excuses. Most of the time, it goes downhill after that.
We can spend a lot of time discussing the meaning of words that would be non-productive. The more experience I have with these concepts, the more I believe that negative thinking and accountability issues are the keys to our level of joy. The next time you feel frustrated or mad, take some time to notice what is driving you.
With all that said, let’s look at a typical scenario. Someone asks you (or you intuitively know) to do something. You promise to do it which develops an expectation. So far, nobody discussed any reasons that could cause you to miss your promise. The day comes when the person with the expectation looks for results. If the results are not there, we are usually not interested in why. This is especially true if nothing is said prior to the delivery time that would suggest the plan was altered. If this happens all the time, trust is lost. Once the trust is lost you will no longer be asked to do anything. You may be fired, excised from the group or just ignored. In any case, nothing good happens.
To be successful, you need to develop the skill to understand and to accommodate anything that would prevent you from missing your implied or promised results. I cautiously bring up the concept of planning. I have had discussions with employees where they get defensive and say something like: surely they did not expect me to do that if it rains (or snows, or whatever). My answer is, yes they did. They understand that it may rain, the car may not start the dog may eat the paper, etc., but expect you to get the job done. Part of getting the job done is building enough experience to understand the need for a contingency plan.
The secret about accountability is, if you are not accountable you cannot fix it. If it is always someone or something else’s fault, you will never fix it. Want to improve or advance in your career? Start off being accountable for everything that happens to you. You will not like it at first, but you will gradually grow as a person. Others, particularly in the business world, will see that you have a value called character. You will be seen as a person of integrity. And with these changes comes wisdom. And with these traits comes advancement in your career and you become a valuable member of the team!
Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc. He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working; Dave is truly the Wisest of Owls. Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.