Accountability is a choice that not many make… Many definitions of personal accountability have been proposed over the years. One of the most compelling definitions comes from a website regarding alternatives to domestic aggression. They define accountability as actions toward or involving others that reflect the integrity of the person you want to be. This definition engenders what it is to be accountable: accountability is an expression of integrity.

Chances are you have had a mentor or hero figure that you looked up to at one point in your life. What was a defining characteristic? Heroes are not chosen for their hairstyle, or their material possessions. We believe in heroes because they act in times we can’t, don’t or won’t. They do the things we can’t do, and yet, they represent a potential in each of our lives. How did they get to be heroes? What separates a hero and a regular person? A hero takes accountability for themselves and others, and learns and grows along the way.

There are many excuses and rationalizations that prevent accountability. These excuses can easily be seen for what they are upon reflection. Excuses for not being accountable are rationalizations. Here are some things you may hear around the next water-cooler break:

That’s not my job: People will often tell you what their job is and isn’t the moment you ask for some help. For some people, it seems, their job is such a thin wafer of accountability that you wonder what they do and why they are still around. What if it wasn’t anyone’s job? Who would do it? Your hero would, you betchya! Your hero wouldn’t think twice about it.
That issue is too big / hot / political: People will often say that an obstacle is too big or too difficult. Apart from the millions of examples of big things getting done by a single person, this response suggests that “I don’t want to be accountable for trying and failing.” Your hero failed once, or several times, and learned everything you love about them from it.
I don’t know how to: Surely if you don’t know how to do something then you can’t be accountable for doing it. Sadly this is wrong. This excuse doesn’t work with taxes and the government, it surely shouldn’t work in the workplace. Internally when you say I don’t know how to, you might be saying, “I don’t know enough to do it best, and if it’s not best it’s not enough so don’t try.” You didn’t know how to walk, but you learned. Your hero wasn’t born a hero. They learned along the way.
S/He made the mess, s/he should clean it up: You may be right, but being right doesn’t release you from accountability.
Accountability does not stop with you and your actions. Issues and adversities arise that are caused by all sorts of things. Be it a person, place, thing, or event, blaming the event and not facing it is running from accountability. It may not be fair, but it is reality. Your hero doesn’t run from reality, they face it directly or indirectly and triumph.

The decision to be accountable must be backed up with energy. It is not sufficient to say that you are being accountable you need to act in accordance with real ownership of a problem. Tenacity is what accountability looks like to outsiders. People who are accountable look tenacious and determined. If you are not tenacious about the resolution of your problem or the achievement of your goal, then you are not truly being accountable.

Accountability also means knowing when to leave a challenge, or move on, and how to do so. Preparing your successor in a job, or closing the loop in a relationship are ways to demonstrate your accountability and respect towards a problem or challenge that is outside of your current ability. Certainly, don’t leave a situation worse than you found it if you can avoid it, and don’t leave after the first try. Every time you try something you are learning ways to do it better.

When you think about the times you were and weren’t accountable in your personal and professional life, which were more rewarding? Which do you wish you did more of? Your heroes represent the best in you, and in many ways represent the integrity you have when you aren’t afraid of what will happen.

Being accountable is what makes actions your own; it is an expression of your personality, and your integrity. You can be accountable at any time, even if you choose to remove yourself from a situation. Accountability is the first and toughest decision when situations and challenges arise. Next time you are faced with a problem what will your answer be?