I sometimes see a gap when we are leading our lives when we give up our power by losing our sense of accountability. Some people may lose it when things get difficult at work and they are feeling the crunch. Some, sadly, have never really found it to begin with. I think one of our best skills as leaders is to take radical accountability for what is happening around us. The benefit of being radically accountable in your life and work is you maintain a sense of control of what is happening around you and you remain at the cause rather than at the effect of life.
In my younger years, I worked for a company that was well versed in leadership development and had an established structure of leadership behaviors that we were to aspire to in order to be well-rounded, effective leaders. Many companies have their own version of this. One benefit of that model is that it provides everyone in the organization with a common language and definitions to describe behaviors when providing feedback or working towards a goal. When the phrase “demonstrates accountability” was used, everyone more or less knew what that meant.
While I didn’t realize that this was rare at the time, I was lucky to work for an organization that placed any emphasis on personal accountability and then actually backed it up in action. As a result, I grew up learning leadership that reflected on self-improvement first. My days were filled with, “What is my role here?”, “What could I do to improve this?” and “What is in my control?” I was constantly reflecting on what actions I personally could take in the situation.
Radical accountability looks like…
This mentality crossed over into all areas of the business. We took matters into our own hands to make things happen, rather than waiting for someone else’s cue. I can see now that the foundation of radical accountability has colored how I live and lead every area of my life.
Here is what radical accountability might look like in different areas of your world.
An employee gives notice to you that they are leaving their job to move to another city with their boyfriend. The conversation was short, polite, and seemed as if that was the whole story to you. If you were to take radical accountability, you would dig deeper as to why this person was leaving your team, and the company. You would genuinely ask for feedback on what could have created a better experience in their role. This would be viewing any turnover on your team through the lens that you have some responsibility for that person leaving.
It is possible that this person leaving had nothing to do with you, but I have rarely seen an example of that in practice. There is always some feedback the leader could take in to better understand that person’s experience on their team, and to improve it in the future. If we don’t approach this first with radical accountability before swinging back to a more central, realistic stance, we would have missed the feedback on what to improve and just chalked the turnover up to a personal relationship getting serious.
It would be fitting for me to mention that this is a real scenario I have encountered. When I did an exit interview, it became clear that this person was leaving their job because of their manager. They just happened to be moving out of state because that was where they found a job. This person had to go three states away (and drag her boyfriend with her) just to get away from a bad boss relationship!
In personal life:
A client came to me because they were feeling lost, and wanted to clarify their goals and direction. After some discovery conversation, she acknowledged that she was aware of how she was holding her back but she hadn’t yet done anything about it. She just couldn’t make the change on her own knowing that she would have to pay for her new life with the old one. What incredible courage and radical accountability it took for her to enlist someone to help her over the finish line to pack up her own bullshit. She knew she needed help to get there and so she took a deep breath and did it. Accountability and taking action have the power to change lives.
This is an exercise in taking personal accountability and controlling what you can control. That is why it is called radical. By nature, it feels a little tipped on one extreme side of the spectrum. There is such a thing as going too far or mistaking taking accountability for lack of confidence, seeing everything as your fault, or always feeling like you are the central problem. That is unhealthy and unfair. If you start from the viewpoint of radical accountability and what you could do to affect the situation yourself, it is always easier to swing back to the middle and take a balanced approach to solve the problem. If you don’t start by seeing your role when things go awry, it’s hard to muster up accountability later on.
Steps to take
Your heart is in the right place, and you want to practice being radically accountable for the life around you. Great! Here are some questions that you can use over and over in situations to assess your role.
- What was my role in this situation?
- What might I have done differently to have gotten the outcome I really wanted?
- If I saw the situation from the opposite viewpoint than mine, what would I see?
- Where have I stepped out of my integrity, even a little, in this case?
- What next steps do I need to take, even if they feel uncomfortable?
- What can I learn from this moment?
The next time things don’t go as planned, try a few of those self-reflection questions on for size. Write down your answers with a pen and paper and see what comes out. You may also consider enlisting a trusted peer or partner as an accountability partner. My best accountability partners often told me what I didn’t want to hear, but I always trusted they were telling the utter truth. Try it out! It hurts so good.
About the author:
Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. Find out more by visiting www.teamawesomecoaching.com or join the Team Awesome Community for awesomeness coming straight to your inbox. Follow Team Awesome on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.