There’s a lot of talk going on these days about accountability.

For some, it’s important for their professional lives (i.e., setting business goals, keeping on track, being responsible, etc.) For others, it’s more personal (i.e., diet, weight loss, exercising, etc.)
Whatever the case, it’s important to understand what accountability is, and ultimately, how it works. Here’s a short course:

What is accountability? Why is it important? If you walk into a room and ask ten people what accountability means, you’ll likely get ten different definitions. To some, it’s something you make people do, as in “holding people accountable”. To others, accountability means accepting responsibility, but only when a project goes off course, or it’s too late to fix. When it’s all said and done, a workable definition of accountability might include the following elements: Taking responsibility for your own behavior; doing what’s right consistently; demonstrating personal integrity, and actively participating in activities and interactions that support the strategy of your organization.

Now that we understand better what accountability is, now consider what it isn’t. Accountability is not something you “make” people do. It has to be chosen, accepted or agreed upon by the people within your organization. People must “buy into” being accountable and responsible. For many, this is a new, unfamiliar, and sometimes, uncomfortable way to work or live. Learning how to become accountable involves an element of discipline. Most importantly, individual purpose and personal meaning comes from accepting responsibility and learning to be accountable.

Holding people accountable is really about the distribution of power and choice. When people have more choice, they learn to be more responsible. When they become more responsible, they earn more freedom. By being accountable, they earn the trust of managers and coworkers. When they are more accountable, they understand their purpose and role within the organization and are committed to making things happen

How can you learn to be accountable for yourself? In reality, it’s very difficult to be accountable to yourself. Depending on your frame of reference (professional vs. personal) you need to find someone who can help you to stay on track, to stay focused. Accountability can be the catalyst for unlearning old habits, and learning new habits. For weight loss, it’s the reason that WeightWatchers is a multi-billion dollar business. It’s also no secret that the tremendous growth in business coaching (for example, like Six Disciplines) due to its success in applying the benefits of external accountability coaching.

BOTTOMLINE: Accountability and positive organizational change come through a new set of conversations. So, what are you waiting for?



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