What do we mean when we say be accountable?
Let’s face it. When things are going well, we want to be right in the middle of the action. We want credit and recognition for our accomplishments from bosses, clients, and colleagues. When things are not going so well on the other hand, we instantly want to run and hide in a closet until the smoke blows over.
This flight response in uncomfortable situations is a natural reaction, because who wants to face confrontation with a boss or listen to negative feedback from upset clients or employees?
The truth is though, that being accountable when things are not going well is where true leadership shines its light.
Lifeguards dive into swirling ocean currents to rescue drowning victims. Firemen rush into burning buildings to save lives. These are examples of strong leaders who act without thinking in order to help others. This is what it means to be accountable.
Sure, most of us are not risking life and limb to show that we are accountable, but what we can do is take a lesson from these examples and apply a similar mindset to a negative performance review, an employee complaint, or some business problem like starting a company.
A Simple Framework
The good news is that we can start changing our thinking today. It’s Monday. It’s the beginning of the week and a great time to take on new ideas.
Accountability is one of our core values at Jax + Cole. We’ve tried and failed, yet we still show up to do the work. Here are 3 basic strategies we follow for accountability:
1. Show Up
Showing up is about avoiding missed opportunities. Showing up is about standing tall and being confident. True leaders show up to guide teams into battle or to take some action regardless of the potential outcome.
If you’re not feeling good about a meeting with your boss or a performance review, show up. Show up early and come prepared.
If you’re the CEO of a company and everything seems to be falling apart because…Mondays, just show up. Communicate with your employees, listen to feedback (good and bad), and let them know you’re there to help.
If you are a freelance designer and you’re feeling that your portfolio isn’t where it should be, show up. Organize your best work, upload it to Behance or your own website, then share it across your social media accounts asking for feedback.
Showing up is being accountable.
2. Make Contributions
We’ve pretty much talked this one to death. It’s our favorite mantra, and a guiding principle for how we approach clients.
Leaders ask how they can help. Show your leadership skills by asking how you can make a contribution to a client, your boss, or your colleagues. It shows that you are willing to be accountable regardless of whether the outcome is positive or negative.
We have this notion that we need to sell everyone on our credentials in order to gain trust and show our value. By changing our mindset from selling to making contributions, we can provide much greater value.
By contributing you feel much more engaged with a project or purpose and will be more likely to take accountability for its success or failure.
3. Be Uncomfortable In Failure
Being uncomfortable in failure may sound like a bad thing, but it’s not. Being comfortable in your failures on the other hand, is a bad thing because it can lead to complacency and yield little success.
There is an irrational fear of failure in all of us. Successfully navigating our way through these failures is about embracing the discomfort in order to overcome the fear. This helps us take accountability and learn from our mistakes so that we can plan better for success in the future.
Think about it this way. Imagine you’re learning to ride a bike, but you keep crashing into the same bush. If you simply become comfortable with crashing into the bush, you may never learn how to avoid the bush. Conversely, if you accept that crashing into the bush hurts, you will likely learn how to avoid it.
Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at the light bulb. When a reporter asked “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps”.
Embrace the discomfort and be accountable for your failures.