Accountability Is Over-Rated

Ha, ha … gotcha! I know what you were thinking when you read the title of this article. The old guy has lost it! He has flown over the cuckoo’s nest. The Texas summer heat must have finally done him in.

For years I have been extolling the virtues of focus, accountability, consistency and execution in achieving world-class results. Why then the sudden change of heart? Why do I now believe that accountability is over-rated? To be clear, I don’t. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Have you ever stopped to think about why the word “accountability” carries such a negative connotation in our modern society? Even the very definition of accountability is punitive and makes it sound like one of those bad four-letter words we were told not to say when we were children.

“Accountability is not a bad four-letter word.”

Well guess what? We are not children anymore. Most of you reading this article are business owners, parents and/or leaders within your communities. So, accountability is not something that is foreign to any of us. Yet, when it comes to being accountable why do so many people shy away from it?

When we think of accountability, we think who’s responsible, and we think blame. The main difference between responsibility and accountability is that responsibility can be shared while accountability cannot. Being accountable not only means being responsible for something but also being answerable for your actions. Therein lies the rub. No one wants the public scrutiny when the ‘blame game’ starts, which is all too commonplace in our world today.

Blame aside, accountability is about taking ownership and delivering results and we all want great results, right? Or do we? In what instances does accountability become over-rated? (I’m glad you ask!) It can be over-rated or irrelevant in the following situations.

  1. There are no real consequences for your inaction. This is the #1 reason why most people fail to meet their goals.
  2. It is difficult to identify who should be accountable for results. This happens frequently in large companies when a number of people have responsibility for the decisions and policies.
  3. You are perfectly satisfied with the status quo. If you have no desire for a better life, or self-improvement, then accountability is irrelevant.
  4. You are willing to give up control to someone else. When you control the decisions, you control the actions, and the outcome. However, if you abdicate responsibility for your life to others, it is no longer your life.
  5. You allow fear of success to override your actions. I love this quote, “You playing small does not serve the world”. Fear can result in procrastination or lack of action that can rob you of success and your self-esteem.
  6. You’re ambivalent about your life’s direction. Similar to #3, “Que sera, sera (whatever will be, will be)” fosters decision by indecision, and not having conviction means that little or nothing gets accomplished as a consequence.

Accountability, on the other hand, provides a yardstick to measure both your performance and the performance of others. To benchmark progress and make course corrections when and where needed. Now is that such a bad thing? I don’t think so.

“You playing small does not serve the world.”—Nelson Mandela

The answer to whether accountability is over-rated or not boils down to what you’re willing to tolerate. If you are willing to tolerate mediocrity in yourself and in others, then clearly accountability is over-rated. However, don’t expect great results or a meaningful life. Real life and business just don’t work that way.

If you want a fulfilling, purpose-driven life, then own it … be accountable! Raise the bar and hold yourself and others to a higher standard. Seize control of your life, embrace the responsibility that goes with your decisions and actions, and PLAY BIG!!!

Enjoy the journey!


COPYRIGHT © 2017-23 John Carroll