The term accountability comes up in so many areas of life. Whether it’s being accountable at work, in your relationships or with your finances, the idea of accountability is often synonymous with responsibility.
The Webster definition of accountability is taking or being assigned responsibility for something that you have done or something you are supposed to do. On the surface it doesn’t seem like such a big deal however accountability is a hot-button topic for a lot of women, both professionally and personally.
The fear of judgment and lack of self-confidence often plagues many women, leading to the avoidance of personal accountability. You may believe that if you hide in the shadows you won’t be blamed, discouraged or disappointed which often leads to procrastination, complaining and blame.
What if there was a way to eliminate the fear of accountability, the spinning in “what if” scenarios and get to the heart of what the real issue is? Not only does being accountable not have to open you up to the blame game, it really is the key to getting the results you want in your life.
This week I’m going to discuss the mistake most women make with accountability, a new way to look at accountability, and how to get the power of personal accountability.
The mistake most women make with accountability
One of the interesting things I have noticed over the years is how many women want to hire an accountability coach. They have a certain goal in mind that they haven’t yet achieved, they don’t feel motivated and they look to work with someone else to hold them accountable for reaching their goal.
For example, you may want to lose weight and decide you will either hire someone or ask someone you trust if you can be accountable to them for your weight loss goal. You create an eating and exercise plan and want to have someone to answer to in order to honor and stay on plan.
Or maybe you want to join the gym so you ask a friend to join with you. You set up a plan to go together on certain days and times in order to have a partner to motivate you to show up when you agree to and someone to be accountable to.
At first glance it doesn’t seem like a big deal. You believe that being accountable to someone else will stop any excuses you may come up with, will motivate you to take action you might not want to take and will get you the result you want.
The issue is that feeling accountable doesn’t come from having someone to be accountable to; it comes from your thoughts. When you believe you need someone else to be accountable to, you are saying that you need the feeling of motivation to come from outside of you.
When you look for someone to be accountable to it’s because you believe it will be easier for you to do something with the hope of their approval and validation or the fear of their disappointment and judgement. In essence, if it wasn’t for someone or something else in the equation, you would feel less committed to take action.
Although that belief is very disempowering, it’s not your fault. It’s the message that a lot of women get when it comes to making changes or improvements in your life.
It starts at an early age when you are taught that other people are responsible for how you feel. As a young girl you are taught things like people can hurt your feelings and that something or someone can make you happy,
If you believe that other people are responsible for how you feel then it makes sense that you would believe you need someone else in the equation in order to feel accountable. This disempowering message has been taught and reinforced from the time you were a little girl – people and situations need to be different so you can feel better and do better.
With this long-held belief system, it’s no wonder so many women feel overwhelmed, lack self-confidence and believe that in order to get the results they want they have to look to others first. Until this belief system is challenged and you look at accountability in a new way, you will always put the responsibility for how you feel, how you act and the results you have in your life on others.
A new way to look at accountability
A number of years ago my husband worked for Computer Associates, once ranked the largest independent software corporation in the world. It was established by businessman and philanthropist, Charles Wang.
Computer Associates held conventions all over the country to bring their products to the sellers and consumers. One year my husband was at one of these conventions where Charles Wang spoke to the employees the night before this major kick off for the yearly convention.
While waiting for him to come on stage, a number of beach balls were being bounced around the audience to keep the crowd energized. Once Charles Wang began his speech he asked that whoever has a ball to hold onto it.
He said that whoever is holding the ball, that this ball is yours and is not to be batted to another person. He went onto explain that most people avoid accountability when an issue arises and would rather hit the ball to another person thinking “Not my problem” of “Tag, you’re it”.
He explained that he wanted his employees, whether they were in customer service, building maintenance or sitting in a corner office, to take the ball and keep it until the issue was resolved. They were to hold onto it and to let the air out of it as they figured out how to solve it, which then rendered it impossible to bounce to someone else.
If an issue came to their attention, he wanted them to take ownership and either find solution or find the people that could. The knee-jerk response to bounce the ball to someone else so that you didn’t have to take ownership was not how he wanted his company run.
That message of personal accountability was given to those employees 20 years ago yet it has stayed with my husband all these years. The entire auditorium of employees went from loud playfulness to silent recognition and awareness of the power of his message.
The difference between holding onto the ball and bouncing it to someone else comes down to one thing – a thought. In the mind of the person holding onto the ball, the thought could be “How can I help this person solve this problem?” however in the mind of the person bouncing the ball away, the thought could be “When is someone else going to solve problems around here?”
In order to change the belief system that accountability is externally motivated, I want to offer you a new way to look at accountability that is empowering and not motivated by fear. A way that reduces the need to be externally accountable to someone or something and instead to be accountable to yourself and do what you say you’re going to do, for you.
In this new way you can build a relationship with yourself, knowing that you can trust yourself to do what you say you’re going to do from a place of commitment rather than worry. The new way to look at accountability and responsibility is:
Personal accountability – the ability to count on yourself
Responsibility – the ability to respond
Since it’s your thoughts that create your feelings, then creating the feeling of accountability begins with choosing better thoughts. One of the best ways to choose better thoughts is to ask empowering questions.
With this new way of looking at accountability and responsibility, you can hold onto the ball, ask yourself an empowering question and take action based on the answer to that question. You start by asking a powerful question, getting a powerful answer and creating a better belief; that’s how you take charge of your life.
Empowering accountability questions
In the book “QBQ! The Question Behind The Question”, author John Miller asks the question “Why does it seem the only thing people know how to do anymore is point the finger elsewhere, blaming something or someone else for their problems, their actions, their feelings?” He goes on to say “In one form or another, we often hear, ‘It’s not my fault,’ ‘It’s not my job,’ or ‘It’s not my problem.’”
When you are looking to blame others you ask “Why” and “When” questions like:
- When is that department going to do its job?
- Why doesn’t he communicate better?
- When is she going to learn this already?
- Why can’t he see he hurt my feelings?
These “Why” and “When” questions seem innocent enough however they indicate a lack of personal responsibility. By going behind the surface questions that lead to blame, complaining and procrastination, you can ask much more empowering questions that take fear and frustration out of the equation.
When you can create the feeling of accountability for yourself, you will not be dependent on others to create it for you. You will no longer need outside motivation in order to take action and get the results you want.
The author suggests that personal accountability questions:
- Begin with “What” or “How” (instead of “Why”, “When” or “Who”)
- Contain and “I” (instead of they, them, we, you)
- Focus on action
Some examples of the difference between a disempowering question and an empowering question that creates personal accountability are:
- Instead of asking “When is my child going to listen to me?” you can ask “How can I improve my parenting skills?”
- Instead of asking “Why does my boss expect so much from me?” you can ask “How can I exceed my own expectations?”
- Instead of asking “When is my husband going to let that issue go?” you can ask “What issue can I let go of?”
- Instead of asking “Why doesn’t he answer my text messages right away?” you can ask “How can I be more patient?”
Once you’ve asked yourself a more empowering question and answered it, you now have the personal accountability action you can take. If for example you have been having an issue with your child not listening to you and you ask the empowering question “How can I improve my parenting skills?” you may come up with spending more quality time with her over the weekend or asking her questions when you are in the car together and showing her how you listen instead of playing the radio.
The power in asking empowering questions is that you can then focus your effort and energy on what you can do, increasing your ability to respond and your ability to count on yourself. Personal accountability is not about needing others to change, it’s about the wisdom to know that you’re the only one that can.
By strengthening your personal accountability you can skip the step where you need to be accountable to others and commit to being accountable to yourself. Building a better relationship with yourself is some of the best work you can do professionally and personally.
So the next time a ball is bounced to you hold onto it, ask an empowering question and strengthen your ability to count on yourself. Who better than you?
- The issue is that feeling accountable doesn’t come from having someone to be accountable to; it comes from your thoughts.
- If you believe that other people are responsible for how you feel then it makes sense that you would believe you need someone else in the equation in order to feel accountable.
- With this long-held belief system, it’s no wonder so many women feel overwhelmed, lack self-confidence and believe that in order to get the results they want they have to look to others first.
- When you can create the feeling of accountability for yourself, you will not be dependent on others to create it for you.
- Personal accountability is not about needing others to change, it’s about the wisdom to know that you’re the only one that can.
If you’d like some help with the power of personal accountability, please feel free to schedule a free mini session or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get to work together.