Accountability is a hot topic for people. People want it. People crave it. It is a great system to ensure that you follow through on plans, commitments, goals, outcomes, results, habits, rituals, and so much more. I remember being bitten by the accountability bug. So much so, that I almost started marketing myself as an accountability coach. But I paused. Because I love a good pause…and I wanted to dig into what does accountability really mean?
According to Merriam-Webster, accountability is defined as the quality or state of being accountable especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions. What’s your energy like as you read that? Remember, where energy flows attention will go. Take a minute to unpack what this definition or other definitions of accountability means and how that model can work for you…because in the end, being accountable is a path to getting something done. It is a system or a tool that follows up this question, “Did you do what you said you would do?”
For some people, rigorous accountability systems can work. Whether you call this type of system prescriptive, specific, task master-ish, or in-your-face, having someone or something ping you, ding you, or sting you can work towards the type of change, outcome, or transformation that you are hoping to see. Can you think of a time when you were being held accountable by someone or something related to a deliverable or task? What was that like for you? In areas of leadership, the Harvard Business Review found that over 80% of managers feel they had zero ability to hold people accountable and that is the very thing the organization needs in leaders. The article goes on to give recommendations on how to overcome that challenge in a workplace setting. In areas of our personal goals – like with New Year’s resolutions, various studies show an 80% drop off rate within 90 days of the new year. Discoverhappyhabits.com published a breakdown in 2022 that shows various statistics over the years on the drop off rate, where resolutions are focused, and what a person can do to not be a part of the 80% and stick with these resolutions into April and beyond. These articles are great at breaking down the issue and offering tips. What matters is, when it is time to meet the moment, do you? And more importantly, how are you being as you do?
Often, coaching clients request support on being held accountable. They describe experiences of overwhelm, being stuck, not knowing what to do next, or I did it and now what. There is a sense that being held accountable is something relieving or a balm to what the real underlying issue may be. Quite often, the system, solution, person, or community is considered a solution to addressing the underlying issue of what is getting in the way. However, it is the system, solution, person, or community that is part of the journey in getting something done along the way. For example, you can tick off the to do list with a YES I DID THAT energy in your checkmark, but how did you do it? Was it with a begrudging energy that was suppressing your creativity? Was it with a driven energy that took so much time because you lacked focus? Was it a lonely energy because you were too proud to ask for some support? You got it done, but you got it done in a way that wasn’t aligned to your core values. What if you shifted your perspective just a little bit? What if you can align one of your core values into your accountability needs? This is the sweet spot in making your accountability system just a little more potent. It’s like sticking the landing every time you do a cartwheel. As you are tumbling through the action, you land with a YES I DID IT with heartfelt aplomb. A step to discovering the solution may be asking this question, “What does accountability mean to you and how does that connect to one of your core values?”
When I pause and reflect on what accountability means to me, it is knowing that I did do what I said I would do. It is acknowledging the effort, the habit, or routine that allowed me to experience something that is meaningful to me. It isn’t a task or to-do item. Sometimes, it is the smallest step or action towards something bigger, grander, and part of a larger story that I am hoping to leave behind. This is quiet work. The small wins of the day where there is no crowd cheering for you and where you may be the most powerful force to see that you followed through on something. There is an energy to the idea of “being held accountable.” It is a closed energy that staves off growth or an opportunity to knowledge share. It is the “do as I say, not as I do” vibe that drops in and when it drops in, there is a weight to it that signals “DANGER” which then kicks up the fight or flight response in our brains. What happens next? We look for safety, comfort, and certainty – which leads us back to where we started, a desire to be held accountable by something or someone.
Allow your core values to be a part of your accountability model. One of the most accessible tools in defining your core values is Brené Brown’s Core Values Sheet. I believe we are all equipped with the inner wisdom to know what works for each of us. It’s a matter of pausing and reflecting to see it and line it up. Given enough practice, we offer ourselves a chance to demonstrate that core value over and over again. It is the art of our own being.
It is a mastery of oneself.
Elaine Dizon is a Filipina American Life and Mindset Coach, speaker, storyteller, mother, and runner. She is also a recognized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Champion at AT&T. In her coaching practice, life-intention-action, she uses an iterative approach to support her clients in deepening their core values, tapping into their inner wisdom, and creating habits and rituals that support their goals. She helps clients get out of their own way, move past stopping points, and to reckon with fixed mindsets that disrupt showing up authentically in professional and personal spaces through brain training exercises and tools geared towards mindfulness.