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How does one hold someone accountable while simultaneously coaching and mentoring? We say leaders should have “behavior correcting discussions” in private, so how does the team know these discussions are happening? What exactly do people mean when they say “People aren’t being held accountable.” What are they looking for to know someone is being held accountable?

Like you, I’ve also had to struggle with these questions. One day I got tired of asking them and instead decided to ask a much harder and way more personal question. Asking it set everything I did on its proverbial edge.

The radical question?

How do I hold myself accountable?

What is it that you do to hold yourself accountable to your own actions? Do your words equal your actions? Now its personal and may be a tad uncomfortable. However, if we hold ourselves accountable – then others shouldn’t have to.

Here are a few things I try to consistently do in order to hold myself accountable to the words I speak:

Note It

  • When I say I am going to do something, I make a note and make sure I do it.

Think before speaking

  • I try think before I speak. Realizing that I own the words coming out of my mouth, I mentally make a point to know what I am saying.

Self-Assess often

  • Like those smiley face charts in the doctor’s office about the “pain”, I regularly self-assess to ensure I am doing what I am saying. I want my actions and words to align.

Apologize as needed

  • When I am wrong or when I don’t deliver my commitment (no matter how small), or when I fail to do what I am supposed to do I let the other person know it was me. I own my actions whether or not the other person owns theirs.

Surround myself with good people

  • I have accountability partners who have full permission to help me hold myself accountable. If you do not have folks who you have vetted and given the authority to speak truth into your view – you will always be the smartest person in the room, right up until you aren’t. Even the kings of old had court jesters who were able to offer insight.

Aim way high

  • I ask more of myself than I do of others. I know I am not perfect and thus I can only hold others accountable with the lens of humility through my imperfection. We’d all do well to remember that.

Mean what you say, say what you mean

  • My yes is yes and my no is no. It’s simplicity at its finest. Getting to simple is very hard. Simple doesn’t mean easy nor does it mean simplistic. It means intentional.

Look up, look down, look around

  • I regularly assess what I believe I am accountable for such as; actions, motives, or deliverables… Internalizing exactly what I am accountable for ensures my daily words and deeds have an opportunity to align.

In summary, I’m reminded of the movie Top Gun. In it, there was a scene where Maverick’s (Tom Cruise) CO said, “Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.” The same can be said about one’s personal accountability to their words and actions. Don’t let either your words or your actions get ahead of your ability to deliver. Keep enough in your personal accountability account to pay your own way.

Be intentional