When was the last time you had a fight with your spouse or with a close friend? You may not recall what you were fighting about, though you probably remember the feeling you left with. Arguing with those we love is never pleasing, even when a conflict is inevitable, and a more difficult discussion needs to take place. Most likely you did not start the dialogue with bad intentions, but before you notice voices are raised, accusations are thrown around and the whole thing grows out of proportion.
Despite the content of the argument, there is an underlying need to be right. We more easily seek to be right during a conversation than we seek to understand the other person’s view or take accountability for our part. The need to impose our own perspective outgrows our sense of accountability. By doing so, we are not owning our behaviors and our actions. We are less likely to keep our promises and be trusted by others.
In a world where making excuses and pointing fingers is becoming the norm, how can we increase our personal accountability? How can we ensure the role we play in a relationship, regardless of the depth of that connection, including with ourselves?
In case you are thinking about how responsible you are, I do not doubt that. Being responsible though is not the same as being accountable. Some of us feel quite comfortable within our own responsibilities. We do what is expected of us a professional, we show our love to our partners and family members, we follow the social norms as exemplary citizens.
When it comes to showing accountability, suddenly the picture changes. You are indeed an efficient professional, but it is not your fault if your colleagues do not trust you or if the team spirit is not great. You are a loving and understanding spouse, though your partner does not value your efforts. You are a friendly neighbor, just do not have the time to engage in any gatherings or events that benefit your community.
Do you see the difference between the two scenarios above? What can we do, so that these two realities – being responsible and being accountable – become intertwined?
Below are 5 strategies to inspire you to keep looking within, working on yourself and increase your personal accountability.
1. Recognize your mistakes: As humans perfection does not define us. Meaning that we make mistakes and we will keep making them, as part of our learning process. When you make a mistake, what is usually your reaction? Do you attribute blame – to yourself, to others? Or do you try to look back, reflect, and identify what went wrong so you can do better next time? Recognizing your mistakes is not about taking or pointing blame, rather owning them. If you broke a promise to yourself or to other person, acknowledge your hurtful action and apologize. If you made a mistake, recognize your wrongdoings, apologize, and then try to solve it to the best of your knowledge and intentions. If it was not directly your mistake though it happened under your responsibility, take the heat and educate the people involved on how to do better. Whatever fault is at stake, show accountability.
2. Set clear boundaries: Do you remember how boundaries look like? Since most of us started working from home during the global pandemic, boundaries got blurrier than ever. However, they are key to communicate to yourself as well to others what are your limits. This applies both to your professional and personal life. Knowing and clearly expressing your boundaries – in terms of time, place, and space – provides you with the mental space required to shift in between roles and responsibilities. Having clear boundaries in place makes accountability sound much easier. Mistakes and broken promises often happen when boundaries are crossed, people get frustrated (sometimes hurt) and blame is spread all over. Being a boundary-less person does not make you more reliable or productive, quite the opposite indeed. Take a closer look at your current reality and set up some boundaries for your sake and everyone else’s.
3. Manage your time efficiently: Time can be pointed out as one of the key boundaries. We always complain about lack of time, though there are people who find a way to manage it all…and they have the same amount of time than we have in one given day. What’s their trick then? Are they smarter? Do they have different responsibilities? Do they cut on some tasks? Well, I could say – all the above! Or in one word: Efficiency. These exemplary people manage their time efficiently. Long story short, they do it in a structured way while handling several responsibilities and prioritizing tasks. Does this make them more accountable? Indeed, they can account for their time showing more proactiveness, productivity and consequently better outcomes. Stop making excuses and get a hold of your time by managing it with efficiency.
4. Own your choices: The ultimate choice is yours. Often, I hear it from clients and friends “I did not have a choice, there was nothing I could do”. But I know and you know that this is not entirely true! There are always options, even when you do not see them clearly. Perhaps you are not ready to assume the responsibility. Maybe it is too big of a decision and you feel afraid. Whatever reason you have, it still makes it your choice. You choose to stop or to move forward, you choose to be stuck or to grow, you choose to be the average or the best version of yourself. You choose. Shaping your present and what will become your future is your responsibility. Be accountable, for the actions you take today are shaping the outcomes you achieve tomorrow.
5. Seek feedback: It takes courage to look at our faults and weaknesses. Not to wail over them, but to seek a deeper understanding of ourselves to improve, to be better. Identifying and reflecting about our own flaws and mistakes is what we should always aim for, enabling us to evolve into the best version of ourselves. Asking people close to you for feedback can be equally insightful. Often the ones who care about you know you well enough to provide valuable input, including about some of your blind spots. It means being open-minded to not feel it as a personal attack, rather an opportunity toward growth. Another idea worth exploring is to find an accountability partner, someone who helps you keep committed while challenging you. It can be a mentor who advice you on a particular matter or a person who is going on a similar journey, in this case, someone to partner with interested in increasing their personal accountability.
After reading the lines above, can you identify situations where you have been responsible, but not accountable? Can you think of what to do different next time? Some of these strategies are useful or you may find other ideas that work better. Accountability makes you strive for your goals, accelerating your overall performance as well as helping you progress and deepen your relationships.