Accountability: A Postscript

Lance Accountability, Discipline 1 Comment

Last week I wrote about the challenges of keeping myself on task towards my goal of writing a book without the external expectations of a boss or a team to answer to. I ended that post with this:

I could say more on this topic. In fact, when I started this post, I intended to. But, none of these 600-plus words will count towards my daily writing goal, so I’ve got to end this post here and get to work. I have an accountability email to send out later today.

After hitting “Publish” on that post in order to get to work, here’s how many words I typed towards hitting that daily goal I had just referenced:


As I sat down to send my email to my accountability partners — Ryan and Greg — I attempted to mitigate my shame by serving up my excuse with a side of humor and a dash of blame shifting:

It was Ryan who challenged me to get back into the habit of posting here once a week on a set schedule, so as to work the muscle required for writing on a deadline. So, you see, it’s kinda his fault that I wrote last week’s blog post but didn’t put down any words towards my book-writing goal.

Here is what I got in response from The Learning Leader:

… and here’s a live look-in at me reading that email:

(For the record: that’s me on the right…)

Accountability is not for the feint of heart, y’all.

Of course it takes some guts to be vulnerable and make yourself accountable to someone else for efforts and behaviors you need to be doing. Handing someone the keys to the emotional control panel whose buttons can trigger things like embarrassment and shame is a big deal and fraught with anxiety.

But it takes guts just as well to agree to be that source of accountability for someone else. Giving honest feedback and asking the tough questions that hold people accountable like Ryan did in that email is no easy task. To be so direct in making another person confront their own responsibility for failing to meet the expectations they have set for themselves is to flirt with conflict. And, let’s face it: Twitter and Facebook notwithstanding, most people do not relish interpersonal conflict. To avoid it, most of us use passive aggressiveness and codependency to make a point or keep the peace while avoiding direct confrontation.

But, being uncomfortable in the moment is so worth it. Straight talk cuts through the BS and opens up the conversation to the truth. In the context of the discipline of accountability, that truth is not just the reasons for failing to live up to the standard. It is also the light that illuminates the path forward to the productivity and success that was the whole point to begin with.

Yes, it felt like a punch in the talk hole when I got that email. But, that’s exactly what I needed to push me beyond viewing accountability as simply a brain-hack-game to trick myself into being more productive. That digital slap and splash of cold water forced me to treat accountability as a serious effort to accomplish a serious work. Because, if it’s not really a serious work you’re trying to get done, it’s not worth someone else’s time to hold you accountable for it.