Demystifying the Accountability Conundrum

When you think of someone who is accountable, what are some of the words that come to mind? Dependable? Committed? Responsible? Punctual?

People use when describing accountability. While they are good adjectives, there really isn’t one good synonym.

Accountability is a person’s willingness to accept responsibility for his or her actions. Although a concise definition, I think that accountability encompasses several habits that, when practiced proactively, result in a person who embodies the definition.

I first learned these as the habits for being referable (attributable to Dan Sullivan, The Strategic Coach). Over the years, I repurposed the descriptor of these behaviors from habits for being referable to habits for being accountable (and of course, an accountable person is a referable person, so it ties together neatly).

Do what you say you’re going to do. How many times have you said, OK, I’ll take care of xyz, and then the task drops off your radar? When you say you’re going to do something, make a note, set a reminder – do something to make sure you will do it.

Finish what you start. Hectic, high pressure work environments are filled with examples of initiatives that are begun, but not fully completed. Like the previous example, set a reliable follow up mechanism to make sure that you finish things that you commit to do.

Arrive on time. People who are overscheduled think they can cram in more commitments than are realistic and often fall short. Use whatever trick you can to makes sure you’re on time. You can set meetings 15 minutes earlier in your calendar or allow 20 minutes more to get to your appointments. (At a minimum, be courteous and let people know if you’re going to be late.)

Say please and thank you. These are the bare bones fundamentals of polite behavior. I would add to this simple concept to be civil to your co-workers. Sometimes this is hard to do, especially if you work in an environment of people who aren’t civil. But just because others behave badly doesn’t entitle you to do so.

After reading these behaviors, you may scoff and dismiss these principles as too simplistic. Just because the concepts are simple doesn’t make it easy. They take discipline and practice to master.

I recommend that you focus on one principle for three weeks, rotate to another, and keep this rotation going throughout the year. You will gain mastery, and by doing so, you will develop the hallmark of a person who is truly accountable. Imagine what that will do for your leadership effectiveness!

Have a great day!​​​​​​

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