An interesting concept, not often canvassed outside of specific forums, but, let’s work through it for a while. I’ll nail my colours to the mast early – I believe in accountability absolutely. That is not to say I find it easy, or comfortable – in fact it is absolutely not easy, and most definitely not comfortable. But I do believe it is absolutely essential for wise living, and credibility. There are no borders and compartments here – it is for the workplace, for marriage, for friendships, for parenting and for personal growth.
Accountability is quite simply, a self-created and self-maintained framework for delivering results. The idea is to remove all wiggle-room for excuses or failures, by making yourself – especially your priorities and commitments – known to an individual, or maybe a group of people . It can be for one particular project, one particular issue, or a particular time. The idea is to be completely known by someone. It can also be a profound life habit, unrelated to specific priorities – simply a choice to do life together with someone.
Well, many people would say “No way” to the idea, and in a global and pervasive culture of habitual independence and being self-made, that is an understandable reaction. But there is an upside to accountability, and I would say it is a biggie. A very biggie. We are all flawed human beings, and we are not perfect. We also often make excuses for ourselves. That might be ok for some, but for those who hate excuses, and who are committed to constant growth and progress in all areas, having accountability partners can make extremely good sense.
Firstly, accountability is NOT about making someone else responsible for your issues or your decisions. The locus of control needs to remain internal. It is about having a second brain and heart to work with, to make sure that your OWN thoughts are clear and thorough. “So what would you do?” is not a good question. “Here’s what I think/want to do, what do you think about that?” is a much better question.
Secondly, it’s about confidentiality and trust. The faithfulness of an accountability partner is a huge foundation stone for both people – it is good to be trusted, and it is good to extend trust. It’s good to talk, and its good to listen. These are key relationship skills, and it’s what mature people do.
Thirdly, accountability is about humility and wisdom. It’s about declaring to ourselves that we don’t have all the answers and we are not fooled by our instinct to “go it alone”. People in accountability relationships understand that we are designed for community, for partnership, and for walking roads together.
In the business world, a coach, mentor or strong colleague is the usual choice for accountability. In our personal lives, it’s a bit more complex. Personal life coaches are also great. Dealing with personal issues such our parenting, or partnering, our finances, our sexuality etc can be challenging for friends, but it is also in those strong relationships, built over time and full of integrity, that we can find accountability.
The key is not to choose someone who will agree with our excuses or even allow us to make them. We should choose someone strong enough to be willing to stress – or even risk – the relationship for the sake of truth. Make truth and honesty the core values. Especially, we should choose someone who has a track record of being strong where we are weak. Choosing accountability partners who are challenged in similar areas is a recipe for repeated failure.
By way of example, in my circle of friends, accountability relationships have been very successfully used, amongst others, in the following situations
- Changing spending habits to get out of debt
- Getting fit and eating healthily
- Overcoming gambling and pornography addictions
- Starting a business
- Working through marriage issues
- Facing challenges at work such meeting deadlines, getting results etc.
It might sound like my friends are basket cases, but they are not. You know they are not. They are normal, every day human beings, like all of us, but with one unique characteristic in common. They are committed to being personal overcomers, winners and faithful stewards. They love their families and wives, and believe in excellence in every area of their lives. They are willing to do anything to see their commitments through with integrity.
Let’s start a revolution. A revolution against the lie that individualism is better than community.