How to Take Accountability

“You can take all the credit in the world for the things that you do right, as long as you also take responsibility for the things you do wrong. It must be a balanced equation” – Simon Sinek
Ah yes, the thing that no one wants to do. Admit when they’re wrong.

We often hear kids say things like “It wasn’t my fault!” and “They started it!” in response to being held accountable. Clearly, these phrases are meaningless when someone has a black eye and there’s a broken piece of porcelain on the ground.

But, we adults will exhibit the same behavior. We’ll say things like “That isn’t true because…” or “There was nothing I could do about it”. We’ll defend our actions instead of taking ownership, which almost always makes the situation worse.

True accountability is imperative for our relationships (both personal and professional) and our own personal development. It allows us to acknowledge the effects of our behavior so that we can grow.

Here are three steps to help you be more accountable in your life:

  1. Self-Reflect – When an issue or conflict arises, do an honest assessment of the situation. It can help to view things from a third-party perspective to limit your personal bias. Ask yourself, is there anything that I did or didn’t do that may have negatively affected others or the outcome of the situation? Is there anything I could have done differently?
  2. Acknowledge and Apologize Try your absolute best to avoid defending yourself, because it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. Focus on hearing the other person out and seeking to understand them. Acknowledge their perspective by validating the way that they feel (even if you don’t agree) and apologizing for your contribution to the situation (and please, don’t say “I’m sorry if…”. Take out the “if” and give a sincere apology). You can then explain your point of view but avoid using it as a justification for your actions. We often don’t intend to hurt others, but this doesn’t negate the impact of our behavior.
  3. Take Necessary Action After you’ve made amends, show that you’ve learned from the situation by making any changes that are needed to ensure that the situation doesn’t happen again (or at the very least, so that there’s a clear improvement). It can help to ask for feedback to develop a clear understanding of what is needed going forward.

I want to acknowledge that this is very hard stuff! Even as someone who is a huge accountability advocate, I mess these steps up more than I’d like to admit. We’re human, and all we can do is our best to learn and grow.

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