Published in Womeninc, April/May 2006
by Diana Gabriel
In my last column, we talked about showing up as a leader from a perspective of curiosity and possibility. Has this perspective led you to any discoveries about yourself or others? Are you taking risks and stepping into that space of possibility?
This month we’ll look at a related area, which many of my coaching clients struggle with in their role as leaders: accountability. People and organizations often suffer from individuals not accepting personal responsibility for solving problems. They point fingers, blame others or become the victim of another’s actions or inaction. Yet, each of us fails everyday. To fail is human. There is failure all around us, at home, at church, at work and in government.
The critical issue is not failing itself, but how you respond. When you do fail at something, do you pause to recognize and accept personal responsibility for the failure and then take corrective action? Let’s say you have forgotten to do something, like empty the dishwasher. Do you feel compelled to find a “good excuse” for forgetting to do that task, maybe blame someone else for distracting you, or do you acknowledge it, correct it, and move on?
You probably see this at work everyday. How many times have you witnessed people blaming others for their mistakes, for simply forgetting something, or for their own lack of accomplishment? It is easy to get into a downward spiral when you take a wait and see position, do something to cover yourself, or point fingers. If you allow others to address problems, and then tell you what to do, you may resent that direction. Not only do you come to feel like a victim, you also become ineffective. Your world view becomes one of scarcity, with your options becoming more and more narrow until your creativity and possibility is shut down.
At what point, then, do we each have a responsibility to show up as creative, resourceful leaders and become a part of the solution to a problem regardless of whose “fault” it is? Every day that we do not take ownership of being part of a solution (whether or not we were part of the problem in the first place), we short ourselves. We do not need to allow these opportunities to define us, because we have the choice of entering into a world view of possibility and optimism. It takes a great deal of courage for a person to take responsibility and embrace problems that arise. In taking responsibility, you recognize and acknowledge that something has to change, and you face any fear and resistance to change.
The Oz Principle (Connors, Smith and Hickman, 2004) states that accountability is: “A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results – to See It, Own it, Solve It, and Do It.” I dream of living in a community where everyone was personally accountable and took responsibility for being part of creating solutions for the greater good of all. From a place of curiosity and possibility, I challenge you to embrace being accountable to See It, Own it, Solve It, and Do It, for the next thirty days. Apply this to at least one situation/task/problem that arises each day. These failures or problems can vary from forgetting to take out the garbage to not completing a vital task at work to not making arrangements for an upcoming trip. No matter the situation, or how large or small it seems, be aware of how taking personal responsibility in this way affects you as a person, as a leader and in relationship to others.