Don’t Confuse Accountability With Morality or Self-Worth

Distinctions on Accountability

Having worked with leaders from all walks of life and industries one topic that often brings a mix of desire and fear is accountability. High achievers CRAVE someone holding them accountable and those who lack confidence or fear they won’t stand up to scrutiny want to avoid it at all costs.

The challenge is that our relationship to accountability is linked to a fear of failure, criticism, and the constant feeling that we’re never getting enough done. But accountability isn’t about feeling bad about yourself, it’s about having an honest and powerful relationship with your word. It’s about getting invaluable feedback about what is and isn’t working in your life.

But getting there isn’t easy for most people so here is the first of five distinctions on accountability that can help you be true to your word, be honest about your level of commitment, and improve your integrity with others.

Read part one.
Read part two.

Part 3: Don’t Confuse Accountability With Morality or Self-Worth

Most people admit that accountability works wonders for getting things done, especially the things that are the hardest to do, and yet most people still resist being held accountable. The reason is simple, when we don’t do something we commit to, we look bad, and people don’t like to look bad.

Part of why accountability works is that there’s some mental and social pressure that helps counterbalance the resistance you feel to doing hard work.

The far end of this spectrum is seeing failure to do hard work as a moral failing. Basically confusing “I failed” with “I suck”. Yes you may have failed. You may have even failed because of some laziness or torpor, but thinking you suck helps no one, ever.

Accountability is a measure of performance. That’s it. The car either does or doesn’t go 60 miles an hour in 10 seconds. Morality is not measured that way.

We don’t think a car is evil because it has a bad spark plug. We see that it’s got a problem that we need to address if we want to improve the performance.

Accountability should be the same way. The focus is on how to improve performance. Whether someone is a good or bad person should never be in question. If you get into this as a team you’ve got problems, if you get into this as an individual stop it! Get back to the performance and remember that Mother Teresa could never have beaten Usain Bolt in a race, but that doesn’t make her a worse person.


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