Before you can hold others accountable, you must first hold yourself accountable.
It’s not as easy as it sounds.
That’s because in order to hold yourself accountable you must first answer the two hardest questions life throws at us.
Whether you take guidance from Aristotle, the Bible or Stephen Covey, you’ll find the important philosophers, the major world religions and all corporate mission statements distill the essence of success — in living your life and running your business*to the timeless qualities of honesty, fairness, respect and service. “I do without being commanded,” said Aristotle, “what others do only from fear of the law.”
Values are the beliefs and ideals that describe who we are. They govern our decision-making. Our decisions drive the actions that shape our individual and organizational character. When our values have the potential to cost us something — money, relationships, reputation — our character is put to the test. If we’re not really sure who we are and what we stand for, we flunk the test every time.
In most cases, right and wrong are clearly delineated. A good rule of thumb is that if it takes more than about 30 seconds to weigh the alternatives and determine if an opportunity is morally right — not technically right from a business standpoint, but morally right — then it’s probably morally wrong and you need to pass on that opportunity. As humans, we can rationalize anything. So check your motives. Resist the temptation to allow circumstances to affect your ability to make ethical decisions.
Articulate your personal values — or non-negotiables — so they can serve as your compass points and guide your decision-making. Download this free exercise I developed called “Heaven and Hell” to express what matters most to you. Once you complete your document, gather your leaders, share the exercise with them, and see if your firm’s values accurately reflect your firm’s behavior or if the things you say you stand for are simply cheap words.
We are fulfilled when we accomplish something meaningful. We all have dreams. Some of us dream bigger and are more focused about turning those dreams into reality. Setting goals and writing them down brings clarity to our goals and increases the chance we’ll hit what we’re aiming for.
Use the updated version of a personal goal-setting document I developed more than 10 years ago to help you remember that a business goal is simply one of several goals comprising a fulfilling life.
Download The 7 Fs for free. This exercise prompts you to consider what these seven significant life categories will look like for you in a year (or whatever time period you wish to assign).
Life’s hardest questions inevitably prompt more questions, such as:
I’ve long believed the holiday season we’re entering provides an opportunity to reflect on the year’s accomplishments, lessons learned from missed opportunities, and our plans for the year ahead.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln expressed gratitude for a Union victory at Gettysburg and proclaimed the fourth Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving.
“Always bear in mind,” said Lincoln, “that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other thing.”
It’s hard to be committed if you don’t know what you stand for. And it’s hard to be passionate about what you’re trying to achieve if you’re not really sure what matters most. So be clear about what you want. And what you don’t want. You’ll minimize distractions, make better decisions and stay focused on the prize.
To dive even deeper into the topic of accountability, I invite you to purchase a copy of my bestselling book, “Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture.”
Business schools teach case studies. Hollywood blockbusters are inspired by true events.
Exceptional leaders are students of history. Decision-making comes with the territory.