A simple definition of "personal accountability" is...
Being willing to answer - to be accountable - for the outcomes resulting from your choices, behaviors, and actions.
Meaning of Personal Accountability
That simple personal accountability definition focuses on the outcomes, which are at the END of process. In reality, "personal accountability" encompasses ALL phases of the process - the before, during, and after. Throughout the process, you must be WILLING (not forced) to PERSONALLY take ownership for...
- Understanding and accepting the task.
- Taking actions to achieve agreed-upon results.
- Answering the results obtained, regardless of the outcome.
Accountability is related to the key notion behind accounting - to give an account of:
- What resources were entrusted to you,
- What you did with them, and
- What outcomes you produced.
Todd's Results - A Journey in Personal Accountability
After having worked with a coach on self-leadership for a few years, I realized I needed to make wider changes - my firm's performance had plateaued, and I needed to better lead my people in achieving better results. Thus, in 2006, I formed what is called the Todd's Results team, consisting of two accountability partners (my coach and one other person), to help me plan and execute specific tasks I need to accomplish in each of three areas during a month.
Our first meeting was in January 2006, and it was to plan tasks for the upcoming month. At our second and all following meetings, the agenda has always been the same - evaluate whether or not I had met the agreed-upon goals set at the start of the month, discuss issues, anticipated in the upcoming month, and set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevent, and Time-Bound) goals for the following month.
To keep things interesting, I committed to give my accountability partners complete authority ...
- to assess my performance as either "Yes - Met" or "No - Not Met" and then...
- to publicly publish their joint assessment on my website!
Yikes - the possibility of having a "No-Not Met" publicly disclosed has ALWAYS kept Achiever AND Significance on "their" toes!
Value of a Personal Accountability Plan
The purpose of taking complete responsibility for your actions and being accountable for small, intermediate goals? To apply the value of process to stretch you in achieving previously unimaginable goals. I would have never thought I could carry out all the goals listed every month ... until I learned to discipline myself to take consistent action on them each week. [Intentional Reality Part 3 — Reflections on a Year of Personal Accountability]
The benefits I have achieved include:
- Reduced Worry — Personal accountability allowed me to start and complete actions that I have known, for some time, needed to be done. I know I will always have to deal with a changing environment for consulting services and a sometimes fickle economy — and I now know that I have done my best to position the firm for success, regardless of circumstances beyond my control.
- Reliance on Others — Bringing accountability partners into an area I had previously reserved for myself allows me to better see options and determine how I could harness the strengths of others.
- Focus on What Is Important — While I have always been action-oriented, I have not always balanced this with a focus on importance. Having accountability partners brings "third party objectivity" to a situation and sharpens my focus.
- Higher Levels of Attentiveness — A significant intangible benefit is that I can better focus on clients, colleagues, and coworkers, giving them the attention they deserve. [all from Intentional Reality Part 3]
The downside of personal accountability is this — it's tough to do. Opening yourself to explain your actions to someone else is humbling. Being willing and able to take direction from someone else is difficult. Realizing that you are not always your own "best boss," "best organizer," or "best Business Development Manager" is hard to admit. [Intentional Reality Part 3]
Of course, there are downsides when personal accountability is lacking. Linda Galindo writes about these in her book, The 85% Solution:
You can keep doing what hasn't worked for you in the past if you want to, but it's not going to work for you in the future, either...
A lack of personal accountability is at the heart of chronic stress. It saps us of productivity. It wastes our time. It makes us less satisfied with our jobs, our relationships, and ourselves. (page 231) [June 2011 book reviews]
Higher productivity? Better time usage? More satisfying jobs and relationships? Feeling better about ourselves? These are wonderful benefits from a simple practice. Too bad few people attempt personal accountability, and fewer still live it fully. [June 2011 book reviews]
Read more on Todd's Accountability Experience:
• Todd's Results (Todd's accountability experiences)
• Accountability Challenge (Next steps in becoming more accountable in your life)
• Intentional Reality (Todd's series on personal accountability)
• Further Reading (More articles on accountability)