Lessons Learnt 3: Accountability

Not just something for the CV

OK, so this really challenges us. I always thought I was accountable, I was very pro-active, I picked up loose ends and was happy to stand up at the end and take it. Yeah, of course, we all do, until it happens.

When it really comes to the crunch and you are being challenged on a mistake do you really take accountability or do you immediately go into defensive mode as if being attacked? Honestly, most of us do the latter.

Accountability is about taking feedback, learning from it and making changes going forward.

It is simple but those annoying (though essential life elements) emotions, get in the way. So why do we feel so personally berated when someone is holding us to account?

  1. We are not being true to ourselves
  2. We lack confidence
  3. We don’t know how to listen
  4. We didn’t ask the right questions in the first place

The easy route is to find a scapegoat even if it as close to home as – I’ve got too much on – so turning it back onto, say your manager, to sort your workload, or your family member to make them feel guilty about not taking into account the wider picture.

Part of this is recognising your infallibility. You are human. Disney has a lot to answer for – we are not all princes and princesses destined for Happy Ever After – in truth, most of us can identify with the ageing queen in Sleeping Beauty or the madness of the three witches in Macbeth. The media doesn’t help with artificial recreations of supposed perfection that if anyone falls short won’t ever be invited onto that yacht or to that party.

It is OK to get things wrong. It is not OK to pretend it didn’t happen, to scapegoat it or, at worst, start a confrontation.

Taking accountability is admitting a fault (again against our primal instinct to survive in a tribe), but most importantly learning from it and making changes that reduce the risk of it happening again – without undue stress. The easiest way to detach emotional pain from this is to blame someone else but the right thing to do is to detach yourself from the situation and look in and ask what you would recommend that person to do.

“Feedback is a Gift” – make it your mantra. Seriously, make it your mantra!

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