accountability vs responsibility

Accountability: The Greatest Ability

  1. December 8th, 2021  | 

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Published in Accountability

To set and accomplish fulfilling goals, we must be clear about the goals we want to achieve.

I’m reminded it’s often more difficult to define our goals than it is to achieve them.

This blog will provide you with resources to help you set—and get—your goals.

Accountability vs. Responsibility

Accountability is a powerful tool that determines whether or not we’re effective.

 Accountability is also one of the most universally misunderstood and misapplied concepts in business, making it one of the biggest challenges leaders face. 

This tension—the strength accountability provides and the struggle to wield accountability’s strength effectively—is examined in my book from an organizational perspective. I’ve written a short eBook—Success Starts With Me—you can download for free from the homepage of my website.

You are successful. Let that sink in.

What separates super-successful people from others is the mindset they bring to accountability. They understand that the difference between “responsibility” and “accountability” is this: Responsibility is accepting a task and obligation. Accountability is whether or not you fulfill your responsibility. 

Whether or not we’re accountable is based on what we choose to tolerate—in ourselves and others. Accountability is not punishment. It’s not something you do to yourself or other people, it’s an act of coaching you do for yourself and others because you care.

 Accountability is a way of being all the time.

 The most important thing I’ve learned about accountability—whether it’s personal accountability, team accountability or organizational accountability—is that clarity creates confidence. When you are clear about what matters most, you can be confident in your decisions. The opposite is also true: Confusion causes chaos. 

Any time you’re not getting the results you expect—any time you are experiencing an accountability problem—it’s because there’s an absence of clarity:

Somewhere

somehow

in some way

something

isn’t clear

to someone

When it comes to accountability, clarity is the closest thing I’ve found to a silver bullet, and that’s why this phrase—clarity creates confidence—is on the back on my business card, in my email signature and on my website.

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And that brings us to today’s topic: Sharpening goal clarity.

Sharpening Goal Clarity

On Friday the 13th in March 2020, a national emergency was declared.

Two seismic shifts—occurring side by side—began transforming our lives. How we responded the past 20 months provides two clues for setting—and getting—goals.

The first shift occurred as fear, uncertainty and doubt gripped us. Our initial focus was acute: Care for ourselves and loved ones, care for our colleagues, care for our customers. We took things step by step, day by day. 

One day blurred into the next. But we kept going.

In his book Shoe Dog, Phil Knight, Nike’s founder, says this version of persistence—Just keep going—is the best business advice he ever received. As Knight was launching Nike, he kept telling himself, “Just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where ‘there’ is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.”

I’ve observed leaders practicing this concept relentlessly, and you’re reading this post because you just kept going.

Here’s the other shift we felt in our lives: Whatever was happening in our workplace—or, perhaps, because of it—many people began to view their lives through a different lens. Clearly, we were focused on short-term goals to survive and adapt.

 But we all soon began taking a longer view of what mattered. The risk of losing a business, losing a job or losing loved ones triggered a new perspective. And new choices.

It’s not unusual for leaders to find themselves in a position where their business goals and personal goals are no longer congruent: their two sets of goals are out of whack with one another. 

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl noted that prisoners who lost faith in the future were doomed. “Man can only live,” Frankl noted, “by looking to the future.”

So as part of this seismic shift we began asking, “Is what I’m doing fulfilling?”

Here’s what this phenomenon means for goal setting: When we step back from our daily grind, when we set our time horizon beyond the next 12 months—to 5 years, 7 years, even 10 years—our goals expand. They become loftier. Suddenly, these goals become worthy of our best efforts and our full capacity. With grand goals comes excitement. And when we’re excited, almost anything is possible.   

Here are three simple yet hugely significant questions to ask yourself as the year comes to a close:

1.   What is the goal I’m most excited about?

2.   What is it about this goal that excites me?

3.   Is what I’m doing today propelling me toward my goal or hindering my progress?

A goal-setting approach I developed years ago help the leaders I work with remember that a business goal is simply one of several goals comprising a fulfilling life. 

It’s called “The 7 Fs”, and the exercise prompts you to consider what these seven significant life categories will look like in a year (or whatever time period you wish to assign). You can download it here for free. 

Accountability is a powerful force. I will go so far to say that “Accountability is the greatest ability.”

How will you harness accountability in the year ahead to achieve what truly matters to you? 

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises some of the world’s most admired companies and leaders, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 200 strategic planning sessions, he’s delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents, and he coaches leaders inspired to take their career to the next level. His fourth leadership book—Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill) — is a Soundview Executive Best Business Book.

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