In a post late last year I wrote, “Accountability should be less a yoke on our lives, and more the reins to it.” I was trying to reframe it from something we have to do, to something we get to do.
The most popular response to that post was: “But how am I supposed to be accountable for something when I don’t entirely control the outcome?”
So I wanted to dive back into it.
It’s scary to take accountability for a project shrouded in unknowns, driven by a schedule you didn’t create, and impacted by people you don’t manage, aka “a finger pointer’s dream.”
When it comes to responsibility, it’s easier when we control all of the inputs and therefore, all of the outputs, like doing chores (mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, buy milk, etc.), or when running a dictatorship.
In short, we don’t like accountability when we can’t control the “win.” But focusing on the results is our big mistake in our relationship with accountability, because when we’re so fixated on the reward or punishment we forget that-just like life-it’s the journey, not the destination.
Accountability is a wily word.
Without it, we are doomed to a life of dependence (on our family, employer, partner, drugs, etc.). But in order to create a meaningful, independent-yet dependable-life, we have to wade through synonyms of “accountability” that sound like they’re covering a sink hole of shame: liability, culpability, answerability, blameworthiness.
Hence the anxiety and paralysis we feel towards “The Big A.”
You say I’d be liable if the project fails? Ehh, that sounds risky. I’ll be over here doing the “life minimum.” Anyways, if it doesn’t work, it’s Sharon’s fault.
But as with words like caring, authenticity, optimism, happiness, and self-worth, we get to control their story and meaning. We can change the synonyms of accountability to feel more confident walking out on its lonely limb.
Liability -> Self-reliance
Culpability -> Vulnerability
Answerability -> Resilience
Into the phone booth with friction, out of the phone booth with lift.
If you can do this mental abracadabra, accountability goes from blame to ownership.
Accountability is knowing that a hot potato might sear your hand a little bit but you’re gonna reach for it anyway. It doesn’t change the fact that if it doesn’t work out, people will be looking for answers, but it does change the sentiment from “It’s your fault,” to “I got this.”
There’s inspiration, leadership and growth in that.
It shows everyone around that you can be successful even when things don’t go your way. Accountability isn’t just about what you did but it’s about what you do next.
Accountability is curiosity.
Accountability is agency.
Accountability is practice.
Accountability is learning.
Accountability is bouncing back.
Accountability is freedom.
Accountability is a mindset.
Is it easy? Hellllllll no. Recently Dhru Purohit and I discussed the topic on his podcast: Broken Brain. Come walk out on a limb with us.