Your definition of accountability is all wrong

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You've probably heard a ton of stuff about accountability and how we all need to have it. Heck, you've likely even seen the effect it has on teams when some members don't take responsibility. But before we go around pointing fingers at these folks, we need to make sure that our own definitions of accountability are in check, and how self-improvement is always the first step to getting it right. So, let's get to it.

What most of us think about accountability

When you think of accountability, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Most often, people will say it's about blame; that it's a word reserved for those who can't get the job done right. I hear people say that they could be more accountable if their coworkers were more accountable or if someone else would just own up to their part. But here's the thing: None of this has anything to do with accountability.

Negative perceptions lead to disastrous outcomes

Take the example of a football team that's trailing by more than one touchdown in the fourth quarter. With those negative descriptions in tow, this team would likely blame everyone in the stands for not cheering loud enough. Or, maybe they'd say that the band didn't play the music that excites people or, in more extreme cases, that the other team is cheating. I'm sure you've witnessed this kind of self-destructive behavior, whether in sports, at work or at home -- the outcome is rarely a positive one.

A better way to look at it

But if our perceptions of accountability are true, then how do we explain it when a team is trailing behind, and suddenly pulls off some miraculous plays that win them the game? The answer is simple; the team that wins even when the odds are against them is a team that has a positive definition of accountability. These folks aren't wasting time pointing fingers at the tackle for missing a block early on, nor are they caught up in blaming the coach or the quarterback.

Instead, the winning team is the team that rises above challenges and accepts that everyone who commits to taking responsibility can work to overcome the odds. Teams like this understand that victory can still be achieved no matter how many obstacles get in their way. To put it simply, it takes a high-level commitment before an event in order to be accountable in the end.

Positive perceptions lead to growth

Being accountable means that no matter the outcome, we're all 100 percent on board to learn and grow from the problems or challenges we face. And the best part is that when we incorporate this learning over and over, we gain more responsibility to empower ourselves. This is the cycle of a winning team: Responsibility, commitment, empowerment, and taking accountability no matter the outcome so that we can learn and grow.

Today, I'd like to challenge you to become more accountable. Even if your first instinct is to send someone else this pep talk, stop, and think about yourself first. Because let's face it, we all need an accountability adjustment from time to time. Not only that, but we have no business holding others accountable if we can't take that first step for ourselves.

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Ron Schindler

is an experienced professional with in-depth expertise in corporate training, change management, communications, and facilitation. Skill set includes:Program Management, Change Management, SharePoint Site Administration, Project Management, Technology Infrastructure Expertise.