How To Be Accountable

Dear Friends: 

I absolutely love the distinction I’m going to talk about this week.   Accountability! This one may hurt a little. We like to think of ourselves as pretty accountable… at least some of the time.  Well that’s not okay. It’s like integrity… either you have it or you don’t. Can we count on you to show up on time, for example.  Really count on you to do what you said you were going to do. This is not necessarily something that will happen overnight. I worked for a long time of this one.      

For those of us in the entertainment industry we’re only weeks away from the American Film Market.  It’s a great place to meet people, do some serious networking and to find out what’s happening in the film industry.  However, no matter how great your work is, how eloquent your pitch is, how talented a writer you are, how amazing your composer reel is, if you’re someone I can’t count on when the rubber hits the road, none of the other great stuff I just mentioned will matter.  It’s probably one of the most important distinctions to master.

If you’re not someone who’s accountable… for example, you don’t keep your word, you don’t show up on time, you don’t go the distance and give 200%, you don’t raise the bar for yourself ongoingly, and you’re always complaining or blaming, than guess what, I don’t want to play with you and I’ll bet no one else in our industry what’s to play with you either.  Our business is too expensive, and life is just too short to work with people who aren’t accountable.  

So, let’s tackle this important topic.    



1. WHAT IS ACCOUNTABILITY?  The short version of the Wikipedia definition states that “accountability is the acknowledgement and assumption of responsibility for our actions… encompassing the obligation… to be answerable for consequences.”  Okay, that sounds more than a little painful.  That said, I still think that taking it on – really taking it on – can be life-altering.  Can you image hanging around with people who kept their word… who did what they said they would when they said they’d do it… no complaints… no excuses.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  You’d be raising the bar for each other constantly.   How cool is that?

2. TAKE A GOOD HONEST LOOK:  I think that most of us are oblivious on some level as to just how sloppy we are when it comes to accountability. So, take a look now.  Are you someone who keeps your word… really keeps your word?  Who we are to others… who we are (and be) in the world screams loud and clear as to whether or not we are someone who can be counted on to be our word… someone who can be counted on… period.  

3. YOUR WORD MATTERS: As I mentioned in the last tip, being our word and being 100% accountable is a grey area at best.  “So, I said I’d be there at 9:00 and I showed up at 9:15, big deal… does it really matter?” I promise, it matters, and not just to the person waiting for you, it matters to you.  Life does not occur in a vacuum. If you’re sloppy here, chances are you’re sloppy everywhere! Ouch, that hurt.  

4. DEFINING YOUR FUTURE: This is something I used to teach in the Flash Forward coaches’ training program and it’s beautifully summed up in a quote I heard ages ago and can’t remember who said it.  It goes something like this, “Don’t hold me hostage to who I’ve been. Hold me accountable to who I’m becoming.” When you’re looking at a distinction like this it’s so easy to focus on all the times you weren’t accountable and that’s not what I am trying to do here.  It’s all about strengthening our weak areas. Let’s master this amazing distinction and have it define who we are and who we’re committed to becoming, since who we’ve been is now the past. Don’t waste time going there… “There ain’t no cheese down that tunnel.”

5. RAISING THE BAR:  I’m not saying that being accountable is easy.  I’ve been working on this for most of my adult life and I’ll no doubt be working on it for the rest of my life.  It’s a muscle I have to flex continually. We see so much mediocrity around us it’s easy to get complacent. I was watching a Tom Peter’s PBS special years ago.  He was working as a business consultant with the employees of a company and they were literally arguing for mediocrity. “We’re no worse than anybody else,” they said.  Scary, isn’t it? It had become so much the norm for them, that they didn’t even know the company was crashing. Once they took a serious look at who they’d been being and made a commitment to raise the bar and be 100% accountable for the success of the company it not only impacted the company, it impacted every single employee.  

6. IT’S NOT ABOUT BLAME:  Accountability is not about blaming yourself or others.  For example, if you notice yourself frequently showing up late, don’t beat yourself up about it.  It’s not about making yourself wrong. It’s about noticing it. Being conscious and present. And little by little start turning it around, demanding more of yourself… strengthening that accountability muscle.  I promise you, when you’re working on accountability in even one area of your life, it will start to affect other areas. It alters and impacts who you are in all aspect of your life.

7. REVOKING A PROMISE:  It’s absolutely okay… totally fine.  In fact, it’s all part of being accountable.  I don’t think that people realize this. I loaned a friend money and he told me I’d get it back by a specific date.  I took him at his word. That date came and went, and months went by. Not a word from him. It became a little weird and very awkward.  All he had to do was call and say, “Listen, Suzanne, I know that I said that you would have your money by today, but something’s come up and I request that we move the date to two months from today.  Is that okay? Does that work for you?” It would have been absolutely okay with me and if not, then we could have worked something out. It was the not knowing that was crazy. And not calling me to make that request had me question (big question!) his integrity, reliability, accountability… you get the picture. 

8. THE RIPPLE EFFECT:  Sir Joseph Stamp’s quote is perfect here.  “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we can’t dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.”  I love this. I don’t really have anything to add. The quote says it all!

9. ACCOUNTABILITY TEAM and/or PARTNER:  If being accountable is an issue for you, I recommend that you get yourself an accountability partner or team.  I’ve mentioned this in previous articles. Having someone hold you accountable to your promises… to your word… helps tremendously.   Give it a try.

10. COMMITMENT:  I once heard a story that when John F. Kennedy was a little boy, he and his friends were playing and trying to get over a big high fence.  They tried and tired but just couldn’t get over the fence. Then they tried and tried again but just couldn’t get over the fence. Then they tried again and still couldn’t get over the fence.  Finally, Kennedy took off his hat and through it over the fence. Put something at stake… make a commitment… play big and accountability will become the norm for you… it will become an “of course” for you.  It won’t be an issue any longer… this I guarantee.  

BONUS EXERCISE: When I was working with my business partner, Heidi Wall, in the Flash Forward Institute years ago, our business coach gave us this exercise to do every three months.  She would have us take on one specific distinction each time. Qualities like, Leadership, Integrity, Accountability, Relationship, etc. And the exercise was to take it on as an inquiry during that time period.  We were just to observe who we were in that area. It was not about fixing anything or beating ourselves up if we felt we were weak in that particular area. It was about observing and being conscious and aware. For example, I had always thought I was pretty powerful in the area of leadership, but when I actually took the time to observe myself, I was surprised at how many times I didn’t step up to the plate.  It turned out that I was actually weak in the area of leadership, and knowing that, I was then able to start to put in support structures, exercises and tools to help me flex that leadership muscle. So, in regard to accountability, I suggest you take it on as an inquiry through the next few weeks and really honestly observe who you are in this arena.