The Deeper Level of Accountability

Accountability, Part V, Deeper Learning

If you have been following my blogs and articles over the last several months, you have learned quite a bit about the process of accountability.  I have presented this concept as a way to take ownership in your life.  “Take ownership” means to accept your responsibility for generating the results you have, learn from them, and importantly, make changes to get what you are after.

And yet, there is so much more to the concept of accountability.  Until now, you have worked with it to learn to make changes in your life and more purposefully pursue what you want.  Today, we will learn to to use it as a way to find out what motivates you, particularly in areas where you are not producing the results you are after.  When you begin to see your internal motivation clearly, you begin to be able to see how to create significant and sustainable change in all areas of your life.  In this way you make change on a deeper level and it affects more of your life creating what I call, quantum shifts.

The Deeper Level of Accountability – Looking for Patterns of Belief, Attitude and Assumption (Steps Four and Five of the Accountability Process)

You will remember from a prior article, the accountability process I introduced to allow you to go systematically through results in your life and learn from them.  I will set it out here again, and today we will focus on the deeper learning that is available in steps four and five.

To do this, let’s go directly to an example and illustrate how this works.  Imagine that I promise my client I will be done with the first phase of a job for him by March 15 (Client A).  On March 1, I receive another job to work on, also due on March 15 (Client B).  If I take this job, I will have to work more hours to get it done and also complete Client A’s job done by March 15.  I believe I can still get it all done, though it will be close.  Then on March 10, my biggest client (Client C) calls me and says they are having trouble that only I can help with and it is an absolute emergency.  I am drawn into this emergency and miss the March 15 deadline for Client A.  When he calls asking for the product, I explain my story.  As explained in prior blogs, my “story” only serves to let my client know that emergencies from other clients likely could cause me to miss deadlines.  My story shows that in at least this type of instance, I cannot be relied upon to do what I have promised.  It conveys other messages as well, depending on how the client interprets it.  It may tell him that he is not important to me or that I do not manage my time well.  What I know is this has a negative effect on his trust in me, so I decide to use the accountability formula to find how to learn from and change this behavior.  In this example, we will particularly focus on steps four and five – the deeper level.

Step One – Notice the Result.  My result:  I was late getting a project to a client.

Step Two – Own the Result.  What are all the choices I made that landed me here?  (1) I chose to take on a second project, filling my time in a way that there was less chance I could handle emergencies if they arose; (2) I chose to put priority on the bigger client and got so involved in that “emergency” that I forgot to check my other projects to see their status.

Step Three – Look for Patterns.  Ask “is this behavior a habit or pattern for me?”  The patterns I notice are: (1) I am not often late on projects, but when I am it is usually because I have taken on too much; (2) I often take on new projects, especially “emergencies” without looking to see what else I am committed to; and (3) I often believe I can get more done than I comfortably can complete, and do not allow for contingencies.

Step Four – Learn from my Choices.  What can I learn about myself in this situation?  The added piece in this step is to ask what were my beliefs, attitudes and assumptions that drove these choices?  After looking at the patterns, I look on a deeper level, giving me more ability to change the behavior.  Asking myself, “what were the beliefs that drove this pattern of behavior?” I see that I believed my biggest client would leave my firm if I did not drop everything to help him.  I also believed I need to take on the second job because I don’t know where my next work will come from.  My attitude was one of scarcity – where will other work come from?  “I have to take all the jobs I can.”  My attitude was also that I could not renegotiate any of the deadlines with my clients, believing they would not be happy with that.  I assumed when my biggest client calls, I must drop everything and attend to him, and this assumption caused me to forget to check my other work.

Step Five – Act on the Learning.  What will I do differently next time?  Now I have some learning about my internal motivation and my personality, I can make changes to guard against this happening in the future.  So I decide that immediately, I will make up a practice where I only take on a certain amount of work.  If there is more than this amount, I will ask the client if the deadline can be extended so that I am not working simultaneously on more projects than I can reasonably handle.  I also will put extra space in my calendar for unexpected contingencies.  I will put up a post-it note that says “check your calendar” and I will always look to see if I have time before I commit to another project, especially an “emergency.”  I will keep close track of how many projects I am working on and the deadlines.  For awhile, as I am changing this pattern, I will look at this list daily.  I may also want to do some work on my attitude of scarcity (my fear that there is not enough work) and abundance (cultivating a belief that there is plenty of work) since this seems to drive my decisions to some degree.

The most important thing in this process is that you look honestly at your beliefs, attitudes and assumptions.  When you see what they are, you can start to make different choices and challenge your beliefs and your thought process.  Try it!

This concludes my five-part series on accountability.  Use the formula, take ownership and make the changes you are after.  “Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility [accountability]….In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have…is the ability to take on responsibility.” Michael Korda, former Simon & Schuster editor in chief.”