Only in the dictionary does accountability come before commitment.
There’s been some discussion swirling around my community on the subject of accountability. Admittedly, it’s a big broad topic that means different things to different people. Accountability — primarily, the act of holding oneself accountable — seems to be most prevalent.
What comes to mind when you think of accountability?
As I ponder what accountability means in my universe, I define it as doing what I said I would do long after the mood in which I said I would do so has past. That’s key — the mood thing.
It says that I can be counted on to do my part — even if I no longer feel like it. It says that people can place their trust in me. It screams that when I commit to doing something, no matter what, I’ll follow through.
Frankly, it’s hard for me not to keep my promises (i.e., remain accountable) to others, no matter how much anxiety it creates. Remaining accountable to myself, however, can be a unicorn.
The Accountability Argument with Oneself
I’m not alone in my quest to hold myself accountable. In fact, it’s one of the primary reasons people seek out a business coach — to hold them accountable to their goals.
What is it about the promises we make to ourselves, or the goals we set, that makes it so difficult to hold our own feet to the fire?
Granted, it’s pretty easy to talk ourselves out of following through on a promise we made to ourselves. It’s such an intelligent conversation. From the witty negotiation to the strong arguments against following through, it’s a surprise we’re not all allowed to try cases in a court of law without any formal training.
It reminds me of the cartoons where the devil sits on one shoulder and the angel on the other — while strongly presenting their case for or against. Whoever wins the argument, rules the universe.
This is one of my favorite definitions of accountable put forth by Business Dictionary
The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. It also includes the responsibility for money or other entrusted property.
It’s this definition that sheds light on our struggle.
As business owners, we are only accountable to ourselves. Unless your structure of business consists of a Board of Directors or shareholders, there is no one to “scold” you for your “bad behavior.” There are seldom consequences — beyond the crushing disappointment of missing deadlines or treasured goals.
Beyond engaging a business coach to hold our feet to the fire and honor the commitments we make to ourselves — and them — it’s sheer willpower that seems to be the glue that holds it all together. Unfortunately, willpower loses its power throughout the day — much like a muscle loses strength from continual use. I can already see the epic flaw and failure in this strategy!
Knowing how easy it is to let ourselves off the hook, it’s important to consider a better structure. Although I’m naturally going to advocate for the hiring of a business coach — after all, that is my thing — it really is best to create your own structure of accountability.
With your own system in place, you rely upon yourself. And, as the saying goes, you’ll never leave you. It’s foolproof.
The Coach Approach to Accountability
To help you create your personal accountability structure, here are a few considerations:
1) Make sure you’re truly committed to what you say you want to achieve. Lots of us say we want something but, in reality, it’s more of a want, a wish, or a should. There’s no real commitment behind it. Unless, and until, you can settle upon a goal that you truly are committed to achieving, you’re only fooling and frustrating yourself.
2) Once you’ve identified a goal to which you are truly committed, carve out time — dedicated, uninterrupted time — during which you will do what it takes to achieve your goal. Outside of committed time for achievement, it’s a Santa Claus moment as you await some miracle on 35th street.
3) Surround yourself with the right information and the right people. Once you’ve set your goal, carved out time, you can’t continue to poke around on FB (or whatever other social media platform you use to kill time). Your goal, and your commitment to its achievement, is much too important. And, you know the definition of insanity — doing the same thing and expecting different results. Ugh! What are you willing to change?
4) Put a little skin in the game. That worked beautifully for me recently during a 28 day no alcohol February. Where willpower failed me miserably in the past, I put my money where my willpower wasn’t. To hold myself accountable to my goal, I committed to donating $100 to the re-election of a particular politician that I absolutely, positively did not want re-elected for every drink I took.
Every time I wanted to pour myself a bit of merlot at the end of a particularly stressful day, I thought of the check I would have to write for this so-called treat. Hell no!
Bottom Line: It’s a DIY World
There’s a freedom in knowing that you have built the internal and external structure needed to continually honor your commitments. Think about it. Having your own framework for accountability eliminates the need or desire to blame someone else — to scapegoat others — if, for whatever reason, they don’t hold you accountable to your own commitment. (Even writing this is a bit crazy making.)
Yes, you can use the structure of a coaching appointment for accountability but, truly, a coach is not your boss, your spouse, your mother, or your judge. They don’t have the kind of power for enforcing consequences — even those to which you have agreed.
You and your own system of accountability, on the other hand? It’s a winning combination.