Updated: Nov 4, 2021
Whenever we try to deflect blame or responsibility, we are wasting precious energy required for solutions. Ironically, when we take accountability, we take back our power, even if the immediate results are uncomfortable, making us feel temporarily powerless.
One of the hardest experiences is disappointing someone whose opinion we value. Whether we do something wrong, or believe it will be perceived that way, the mere idea of receiving criticism or punishment can cause tremendous stress. We give our power away to the other person in that moment, whether they are aware of what happened or not. That’s real power we just forfeited that could have been used to be productive, focused and successful – instead, we spent it avoiding discomfort.
The irony is by evading responsibility for our actions, we erode the same happiness we are trying to protect.
Being fully accountable is easier than you think, and gets even easier with practice.
Benefits of Accountability:
Key learning. Acknowledging something happened, and owning your part in it, allows you to learn something new. Conversely, when you deny responsibility, you also block key insights from the experience.
Build confidence. True self-esteem requires having the courage to take an honest look at yourself – both good and bad, for a balanced view. Accept your weaknesses and missteps, as well as your strengths and accomplishments.
Strengthen relationships. Yes, you will earn trust by living up to your commitments – most importantly, you will build trust in yourself. You’ll also deepen your connection with family, friends, and coworkers. Of course, there will be times when you take accountability and the other person will continue to hold your mistakes against you. This is what many of us fear. By being accountable to yourself first, you do not need to be defined by their inability to forgive and move forward, even though it may be extremely painful and even sad.
Reduce stress. In the long run, facing the truth usually creates less anxiety than trying to cover it up. Being responsible allows you to enjoy greater peace of mind.
How Accountability is Linked to Our Power
Accountability, at its foundation is owning our actions and their consequences. The reason this is foundational for our personal power is that when we take this level of responsibility – and only when we do – we stop being a victim of our circumstances. We are no longer at the mercy of what others do or don’t do. They will do whatever they feel compelled to, and then we will own our next set of actions that follow. We are fully in command of our actions and reactions.
This demonstration of personal power is as contagious in an organizational culture as a culture of fear can be. So, if you find yourself feeling trapped (and powerless) in a culture that does not foster accountability, ask yourself:
How can I demonstrate accountability just for myself in this situation?
Am I taking on responsibilities that aren’t really mine?
Am I trying to please others and taking on too much?
Am I moving too fast and setting myself up for mistakes?
Have I acknowledged my challenges and obstacles and planned for them?
When a culture of fear, blame and punishment is dominant, you can begin to claim your power by being radically honest and accountable just to yourself. This shift you into solution mode, instead of trying to hide or defend the indefensible.
Just begin there. All you need is a spark of accountability in order to catch fire.
Find out more about how to foster a culture of accountability for your organization.