Accountability Starts with Me!

Updated: May 29

In our previous article we described the 5 Building blocks of Accountability which looked at the essential requirements for Accountability. In this article, we look at the characteristics and some of the traits one needs, to be defined as accountable.


When we discuss #accountability in the workplace. One of the major traits that go along with it is #honesty.


Honesty can be decoded as being truthful and acting truthfully in all you do. In accountability, honesty is tied to you, by being truthful with yourself, about your reasons or motivations for your actions and behaviors, and being clear about the consequences it will cause and accepting them graciously without being defensive about it.

As a little exercise, try to observe and note everything you say for one day. Now analyze your day and look at, how many times have you lied or neglected the truth? This exercise in honesty can be somewhat difficult, as we cannot remember everything, we say in a day however we can become more conscious about it once we start being more aware of our responses and actions. Try this exercise for a week, if you can and you will be surprised by the results. We often avoid the truth and say things for the ease of answering, giving us more time to maybe do what was supposed to be done or try to rectify what we did wrong. We lie to ourselves about things so that we feel better and tend to fool people in believing us. Sometimes we need to avoid the truth for the betterment of an outcome or purpose, as the truth may lead to further disastrous impacts, in this sense, we should try developing alternative skills, like being diplomatic in a situation, so that you are trying honesty with sensitivity, politeness, and kindness.

Developing your #assertive side can help you in your quest to become more #accountable. Assertiveness is a word we tend to use without really understanding what it means. We sometimes picture assertive people as being rude, inconsiderate, and very demanding. Rather, assertive people express their feelings, needs, and opinions in a direct manner. However, they stop short of the abrasive manner which is symptoms of an aggressive person. The misinterpretation of being assertive is that we base it on feelings, being assertive should be factual and based on data rather than emotions. When done this way you are providing substantial evidence against your stricter behavior.


Often the best way to understand something or a situation is by comparison. Look at all sides of a story, look at it through different lenses, understand it by being in different roles. Let us look at an example, People with low self-esteem. Person A has low self-esteem with an inferiority complex. They choose passive responses to life. They feel helpless or insecure. They may feel put-upon and resentful but have a difficult time saying “no.” so they become defensive quickly. On the other hand, Person B, also with low self-esteem but chooses aggression as a response to life. They may also be rude and arrogant and seem to have a superiority complex.


These people are on opposite ends of the same affliction: low self-esteem. They are people who do not like themselves very much. The assertive person is someone who communicates with others on the best of all possible levels, where there are no judgments, just two people who are mutually trying to solve their problems.


When using assertiveness with data, the behavior allows a person to express honest feelings straightforwardly and to exercise personal rights without changing the rights of others. Assertive people feel positive about themselves and others. They are willing to give others a chance to be reasonable before using fewer positive tactics. They want to openly discuss problems based on facts and needs. An assertion is based on respect for you and respect for the other person.


Once you have gotten a handle on being accountable to yourself, begin accepting #responsibility when and where it is deserved. At the same time, do not be afraid to delegate responsibility if it truly belongs to someone else.

Let us look at an example. Thapelo is the manager of the monitoring and evaluation department. Last Friday was the end of the month, and he did not get his monthly progress report completed on time. At first, he thought, “It’s all Mary’s fault. She did not get those KPI targets to me until Thursday afternoon. If it were not for that, I would have had my report done on time.”


After being in a reflective space, Thapelo thinks about it a little bit more. The truth was that he had not done any work on the report until Friday morning. He had not asked Mary for the information until Wednesday afternoon. He probably could have easily gotten them out of the ePMS system himself if he had tried. Sure, Mary probably could have gotten the figures to him faster, but he realized that there was a lot more he could have done to help himself. Acknowledgment of the mistake made him feel less aggressive and angry at Mary and made him realize that he is accountable.

A Final Note,

It can be hard to take the high road and always be accountable for your actions, particularly if others around you do not choose the same path. It is common for people to sit on different mountains with their own opinions however at some point we all need to come down our mountains to a place of common ground to meet a common consensus in order to deliver the same results to reach the same goal. It is not wise to preach or judge others, but you should act assertively and ask that they take responsibility for their delivery. By being accountable to yourself and setting a good example for others, you may just see a change in the workplace around you when people see you working in a more responsible manner. In any event, you will feel good about yourself when you start seeing results and achievements which will serve as a motivation for you to reach new heights!


Click here to read related articles on accountability:

https://www.visionactiv.com/post/accountability-vs-responsibility

https://www.visionactiv.com/post/what-is-accountability

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