The “Accountability” Law

Accountability, accountability, accountability. Everywhere in business people are talking about accountability, but talking about it like it is cheap change. My experience is that significant numbers of startup founders and senior business leaders have no clue what it really means. So why I am considering it as one of the leadership Laws of Attraction?

A few years back, we conducted a large engagement with a Fortune 100 company. We distributed a workbook to the participating executives. The front cover asked them to write down their name, position, title, job description and accountability. You have no idea how many of them approached us on the break and asked, “What do you mean by accountability?” It was approximately 50%! There is no question in my mind why corporate America is melting. (Do you have any?)

Let’s first define accountability. There are so many conventional definitions. I do not mean any of them. If you actually break the word down, it comes to Account and Ability. Simply said, accountability means to have the ability to account for something. A leader can’t hold anyone to account unless they hold themselves to account first, period. For extraordinary leaders, it is not a game, it is a way of life.

There is nothing significant about accountability whatsoever. Great leaders realize that, and they embrace it. It shifts them from being spectators of life to prime players in their own game. (After all, they invented it!) Most people want to be accountable, they just do not know how to. Effective leaders have a way to create opportunities for people to take it on.

What to consider when creating an opportunity for accountability:

1. You can’t make people accountable; it is a choice. It can’t be put on people. The only thing you can do is to enroll them into the game and let them create their own stake in it with their declaration of commitment. Without choice; there is not accountability, only obligation. It is not for leaders to demand, only to ask, and it is ultimately for people to choose. Accountability is a choice, not an obligation!

2. Accountability is a way for people to contribute to you, the leader. Letting people take on accountability makes them a contributor to the fulfillment of your future. It makes them proud stakeholders, and you need to treat them as such. It dignifies their existence. Accountability is not another tool for punishment and control!

3. Accountability “shows up” on the court, not in the stands. It is a state of mind not something to do. It is what you bring to the game when it is crunch time; it is who you are being in the face of success or failure, when things turn out and when they do not. Accountability lives in practice, not in theory!

4. Accountability is an opportunity to participate in life. Accountability is a unique opportunity for a leader to invite people to participate in their own lives. It is part of the endless enrollment process leaders go through in the accomplishment of an impossible future. The point is, you enrolled them, and you are ultimately accountable for everyone’s accountabilities. You are never, and I mean never, ever off the hook!

5. Accountability is not yours to give, just to accept or decline. Just because people want it does not mean you have to accept it. The acceptance of a declaration of accountability is yours. That is your accountability as a leader. Lose the attachment to their choice –it will free you up. Accountability can be exercised only when it comes with specific conditions of satisfaction. Otherwise, how do we know that it is working? Remember, accountability can be revoked or suspended; it comes with an expiration date!

6. Accountability is ability –a muscle that needs to be developed over time. If you stop developing it, you lose its flexibility and mobility. Make sure that people use it, exercise it, maintain it and nourish it. The more accountability the better, for it makes you (your future or vision) stronger!

Leaders knows that people want to be held to account, to be noticed, to matter to someone, to belong, to be part of a future in the making. People do want to account for something worth living for, they just do not know how.

Although we struggle with being accountable, we feel good when we accomplish something extraordinary that makes a difference. Without accountability, without “at stakeness”, there is no chance for breakthroughs. At best, there can be peak feelings. Leaders know accountability is in their blood, that it is part of their DNA.

What makes it a Law of Attraction? It brings people out of the shadows into the light of truly living, not just of being alive. If that is not attractive, I do not know what is!

What are you, Account –Able for? (That is up to you!)