Corporate use of the word accountability most frequently solicits defensiveness and a sense of finger pointing. Who is to blame for this? No excuses!!
As a coach, I dislike this use of the word, preferring to see accountability as “accounting for our ability,” which I believe elicits feelings of empowerment and ownership.
Every time we opt for ownership, and take into account our ability and power to choose, we ignite our energy and motivation. We validate how resourceful we are. This drives us to make better choices, leading to more positive outcomes, which in turn spurs us on to repeat these thoughts and behaviorus.
In contrast, when we choose to look elsewhere for reasons to explain or excuse us from the situations and actions we don’t want or like, we reinforce the feeling that we lack control. We dis-empower ourselves and disconnect from our abilities. Shifting the blame or responsibility for our current situation takes away opportunities and possibilities.
It's a way of saying I can't do this and then, I shouldn't have to do it. It's out of my control. It's not my fault. With these thoughts, we negate our power and our opportunities to choose. This very often leads to a landslide of bad decisions and augments our feelings of victim-hood.
What good does it do us to play the victim? It feels bad, and nothing good happens. We are stuck with a sense of powerlessness. We lose our motivation and move farther away from what we want out of life.
Excuses and redirection of ownership might feel good for the moment; as it may relieve us of the weight of the immediate burden for our circumstances, but this only fuels additional unproductive thinking and consequently, additional undesirable actions and behaviours.
If I were your coach and you decided to embrace my definition of “accounting for your ability,” taking responsibility for your decisions, you may not like what you discover. This honest evaluation of where you are in life can be depressing and demotivating for some people. However, we still have the power to choose to let this realisation ignite us into action. In my coaching practice this is one of my key goals; to support my clients through this shift – from “stuck” to “free”; from “fixed” to “fluid”.
How? Here are a few ideas and conversations I initiate with my coaching clients:
We are not our thoughts – what we think about can be reshaped; engaging our meta-cognitive muscle is always possible in the moment. If thoughts are negative, write them down; then ask yourself these questions… What if this weren’t true? What else could be true? What is the first step I could take to change my life and take control? Shift your perspective to what’s possible? What ideas and actions could serve me here and now in the pursuit of my goals?
Work on taking small steps - actions within your control. Start with changes that make you feel good about yourself. When we have feelings of self-esteem, we redirect our behaviours to be congruent with good feelings about ourselves. For example, eating a healthy breakfast; going for a walk, getting a haircut or a manicure, doing something nice for someone you care about, engaging in community service. All these actions are within your control.
Stop worrying about what you can’t control and focus on what you can. You can’t completely control the outcomes of your choices. You can’t completely control how other people react to you or how they think about you. Use your abilities and energy for the things that support your movement forward, not for things that waste your time and focus.
We all have the ability to reshape and redirect our thoughts, feelings and actions in the pursuit of a fulfilling and enjoyable life. Isn't that the most powerful, enabling, accountable thing to know?
“It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.” - Sophocles
Juliann Wiese is and executive coaching & consultant. Click here to find her on LinkedIn.