Updated: Aug 17
Do you struggle with holding others accountable? Sometimes I do. One time I was hired to speak at a meeting in Los Angeles, and the woman who organized this function was supposed to recruit two hundred attendees. There were only fifty. At lunchtime she apologized profusely and I responded by telling her not to feel bad. I tried to relieve her guilt. Then I realized that while I succeeded in relieving her guilt, I wasn't helping her to do her best. I wasn't holding her accountable.
According to Webster's dictionary, the word accountable means "subject to giving an account, answerable." It's neither good nor bad, and that's why it's done without judgment. Many of us find it difficult to hold others or ourselves accountable. Either we shy away from it completely or when we do hold someone accountable, we do it with judgment. It is possible to learn how to hold others accountable without judgment. In order to do so, it's helpful, first, to become aware of four ways we let others and ourselves off the accountability hook.
One way to avoid accountability is by not being honest. Suppose you coach a network-marketer who reports that she made ten phone calls. However, in three instances she only left messages; there were no conversations with anyone on the other end. Or, suppose you invite a prospect to attend a meeting, and he replies, "That sounds pretty good, I think I'll be there." You're so eager to get a "yes" that you're not really honest with yourself; you can tell by his tone of voice that he's not really going to come. In both cases there's a lack of honesty.
The second way to shy away from accountability is to give general directions with no agreement from the other party. In our own company we want our facilitators to make plane reservations three to four weeks in advance of travel to hold down costs. But even though I may express my desires, if there's no way for the other party to give feedback about whether they've actually followed through with this request, there's no accountability. Part of holding others accountable is to provide some sort of feedback loop that holds the other person accountable and lets us know they have followed through.
Another way we avoid holding ourselves and others accountable is to hide our heads in the sand. An example is a business deal I have with a person involved with one of my books. We agreed he would get a percentage of the Internet income from this book, but I suspect that he may also want a percentage when the book is published in hard copy. Instead of hiding my head in the sand, I need to clarify terms before the book comes out.
Fear of appearing harsh is another hindrance to accountability. A friend once told me about a young man who cut her grass. She was afraid to point out spots he missed for fear of appearing mean or hurting his feelings. But after he left, you can be sure she was judgmental!
Noticing the ways we let others and ourselves off the hook is the first step toward better results and communication with those we're involved with. In the next newsletter we'll discuss the next step: The art of giving feedback without being judgmental.