All of us have put in our 10,000 hours towards mastering our strengths. We all have overcome countless fears and doubts in our journey towards success. We have discovered our expectations of ourselves, where they came from, and have chosen to either accept or reject the expectations others have placed on us. We’ve even explored how the concept of the linear path to success is an illusion. So, why then, wouldn’t we all be operating in our most authentic truth and as our fullest selves? The answer, quite simply is that we choose to not be accountable to ourselves by not putting ourselves first.
Think of an otherwise unpleasant task that you choose to do anyway. For me, the immediate example that comes to mind is picking up after my dogs who just love to poop all over our backyard. Now, certainly if I choose to approach this task from a deficits orientation, I can name twenty reasons why this task sucks: it smells, it’s gross, it hurts my back to bend over, it’s cold outside, sometimes it gets on me (that’s the worst). But, I still do it and, for the most part, nobody even has to ask me to. Why? The answer comes from looking at even such a mundane (and gross) task from a strengths based orientation. First, I like to get shit done (pun intended). Second, having a nice and clean home is a supportive expectation I have of myself. Last, my top strengths are “Command” and “Relator”. It is tough to relate to anyone, much less command them, in my backyard if it stinks from mounds of dog feces. So, I pick up after my dogs.
It’s a trivial example to be sure – but the point is important. When we think of the word accountability we usually mean it in the context of doing something, that we probably don’t really want to do, but that we feel like we HAVE to do (often because someone else is forcing us to). This, clearly, has negative connotations all over it. And, as a result, accountability often feels pretty terrible.
No more Sour Lemons
If we can couple accountability with our strengths, the whole lens through which we see accountability flips. We now enjoy doing the task at hand because it ties to the things we find important, expect from ourselves, and that we are best at – even if the task itself isn’t directly tied to the strengths in question (I’m not particularly GREAT at picking up after my dogs – I hardly would say it is one of my great strengths). Imagine if the task at hand was not only tied to what you consider to be important, but also to your strengths. What you now call “work” may transform into a meaningful task, get done more quickly, and even have a more successful outcome. You might even start to have fun!
Once we are able to look at accountability in this way, it becomes considerably easier to be accountable to ourselves. Moreover, once accountable to ourselves, we can put ourselves first, and thereby have enough strength, time, and energy to be of value to those around us. So if you really want to be of help to others, put yourself first, and for all the right reasons.
The secret sauce in accountability is accountability towards self. While we spend countless hours of our lives pleasing others, the accountability towards others is really the second part of the equation. If done passively, (i.e. just performing tasks for others), and not actively (i.e. leveraging your strengths to accomplish something meaningful to all parties) then it results in a pseudo form of empowerment that allows us to receive praise from others, and feel good for having done something, anything. However, if that something did not hold value for ourselves, then we are still left feeling empty, as if we had not done anything in the first place.
5 Things To Stop Doing To Create Space For Your Real Empowerment
- Stop making your perception of other people’s expectations your excuse to not be accountable to you
- Stop saving others while you are drowning in your own pool of madness
- Don’t put your job responsibilities before your own personal sense of empowerment. And, if/when you do, don’t expect it to generate any real meaning or momentum in your life.
- Stop making excuses for why you didn’t show up for yourself (e.g., worrying, deflecting, squabbling, criticizing or blaming self and/or others, etc.)
- Know your daily barriers to achieving your optimal level of performance or “upper limit (e.g., feeling fundamentally flawed, disloyalty and abandonment, believing that you will be a burden)”
The very real danger for ourselves at this point is that we allow the distractions of doing things for others, in the name of meeting their expectations, to keep us from doing what we need to do for ourselves. We are “givers” but we are not happy. We are not whole. We cannot get ahead.
Perhaps the most important and most positive attribute of being accountable to ourselves is that when we do so, we get the things we need. This, in turn, gives us the ability to give others what they need. It is only in taking care of ourselves that we can do our best work in taking care of others. Put another way, every time we choose to satisfy others’ needs before our own, we are, in the end, choosing to actually NOT help others as much as we otherwise could.
This can work for you and your team. Consider how personal accountability relates to the workplace and being part of a team. How can you and your team members take care of ourselves first, so that we can best provide support to the rest of the team? How will accountability help you to unlock the corporate mindset?