The Straight Truth


Personal Accountability Is a Cure for Accountability Headaches

Thinking about holding someone accountable can give you a huge headache! Am I right? Isn’t it just easier to take care of ‘whatever’ yourself? It might be easier to avoid holding someone accountable in the short term, but in the long run, avoidance usually results in a big headache.

What do you do when you have a headache? The first step is usually to take something to get the headache to go away. But did the headache go away or did you just mask the pain? Where the lack of accountability is concerned, when you “just take care of it yourself”, rather than hold the person who needs to be doing the task or job accountable, you have masked your pain. It’s going to come back, probably even stronger. You will be spending more time doing the job for others and have to stay late or bring work home to get to your work. Pretty soon, no amount of extra pain relief is going to do you any good, you have to change something.

Let’s Consider One Possible Source of the Accountability Headache – YOU.

1. Own Your Pain. To stop your pain, you have to own your role in the pain being there. Don’t mistake this as being at fault or guilty of something. It’s simply ownership. When you own your role in something that is not working for you, you can takes steps to fix what isn’t working without having to wait on someone else to take the first step.

  • “I didn’t get enough sleep.”
  • “I stayed out in the sun too long.”
  • “I procrastinated.”
  • “I wasn’t clear.”
  • “I didn’t set a deadline with consequences.”

2. Have an Ownership Conversation. When you have a headache, you don’t give the pain reliever to the person who gave you the headache! So, don’t give the person the solution to your pain when they are not accountable. Speak with them from ownership of your pain, how you created your pain, and ask for feedback on ways to remove the pain.

This is an example of an ownership conversation after-the-fact:

“Since we were both in the same team training, I assumed that we walked out with a clear agreement that there would be no missed deadlines without communication as to what was going on. There was agreement that deadlines could be renegotiated but not missed. There have been two instances since the team training where I rescued the situation of missing a deadline, and so I am allowing this headache to continue. I’m going to stop. I’m going to be clear on the consequence going forward because this is a performance issue. Is there a different way I can be looking at this? I’d like to hear that point of view.”

This is an example of an ownership conversation before-the-fact:

“I’d like to avoid the really uncomfortable situation I get myself into when I don’t discuss accountability for expected results up front. Let’s do that now. Let’s agree on what you will do if you realize you won’t make the deadline. I agree to communicate regularly and meet our targets for milepost conversations. I agree to ensure there are “no surprises” and that this conversation up front puts us both in full ownership of the outcome that is needed.” DOCUMENT THIS CONVERSATION.

Here’s what it might be like in a team conversation putting accountability up front:

“Before we move forward on this, is everyone clear about accountability, do we each own our role and the outcomes and deliverables fully? If the answer is no on any count, let’s discuss it now and agree on what success is for this project.” DOCUMENT THIS CONVERSATION.

How do you get started applying the accountability conversation as a pain reliever to your accountability headache?

Step One: What is the conversation you need to have that you are not having?

Step Two: Write out the conversation using only “I”.

Step Three: Practice the conversation with a willing partner who can coach what isn’t coming across clearly.

Step Four: Have the conversation.

Step Five: Take two accountability kudos and write me in the morning. How’d it go?