The word “accountability” gets thrown around a lot in business & productivity circles. It’s a pretty big buzzword & y’all know I love to hate on some buzzwords, but at the same time, I can understand why it gets tossed around more than blame in a roomful of politicians – it’s actually a really crucial part of sustainable success. (Note the emphasis on sustainable.)
But what is accountability, anyways? We could go look it up in the dictionary, but that’s boring. In short, accountability means that someone is going to hold you to doing what you said you’re going to do – someone knows what you’re supposed to be doing & will call you on your shit if you’re not doing it.
However vital I think accountability is, there’s often an important piece of it missing. You can have the best accountability coach or partner or network in the world, but if you aren’t holding yourself accountable, it’s all going to be for absolutely naught. You won’t make any progress, you’ll be frustrated (and your cohorts will be frustrated too, because nobody likes holding up dead weight), and you certainly won’t be living up to your full potential. And that’s a damn shame.
“Okay, nice thought, Michelle,” you say. “But how am I supposed to start holding myself accountable?”
1. Get honest.
We, as humans, are extraordinarily good at bullshitting. Both other people and ourselves, but ourselves more than anyone. If you want to stop stalling out & start making forward progress, you have to get honest. It might hurt a little bit. If you’ve painted this inner picture of yourself as someone who’s doing their very best with what they have, and then when you think about it, you realize that you aren’t giving in 110% effort because you’re afraid of giving it your all & then failing, it can sting a little. But if you aren’t clear + honest with yourself about what’s going on in your current situation, you can’t fix it.
Note: honesty is not the same as cruelty. This step is not an excuse to beat yourself up and tell yourself you’re worthless, and if I catch you doing that, I will kick your ass. This is about getting an accurate assessment of what’s been holding you back, even if you aren’t a fan of the results of that assessment.
2. Get support systems in place.
Once you’re honest with yourself about what’s been holding you back – whether that’s a shitty attitude, a tendency towards laziness, an awful work environment, unsupportive friends/family, or the massive purple monster that follows you around and beats you up, you need to figure out how you’re going to circumvent that with your new support systems.
For example, if you tend to get distracted when you’re working by shiny objects like Facebook & Twitter, you can install StayFocusd to block you from those sites during your prime work hours. If you consistently forget what your priorities are, you can write ’em down & put ’em above your workspace. If you struggle with feeling alone and unmotivated, you need a support group. And so on.
3. Do the freakin’ work.
No shortcut here, unfortunately. Put in some blood, sweat, & tears. But once you’ve done steps one and two – got brutally honest with yourself and put in support systems to remove things that had previously blocked you – you’ll find this step much, much easier. When you know why you haven’t made progress in the past & you’re taking active steps to fix that, it’s approximately one-point-five million times easier to buckle down, do the work, and make the forward progress that’s been eluding you for the past forever & a half.
One of my least favorite things about accountability the way it’s usually done is that it often turns into nagging. True accountability should be about respect, trust, self-knowledge, and support – not “Did you get it done yet? Didya? Didya? Oh, okay, well, I guess there’s always next week.”