by Clara K. Showalter
One of the big buzz phrases these days is accountability. It’s used in everything from business to weight loss. The concept is sound. You need to be accountable for your actions. Accountable is often translated into responsible, meaning having an obligation to do something. These terms are thrown around. What do they actually mean and how are they a vital part of building a better you?
Watching the Biggest Loser on NBC often gives you some interesting snippets into the keys to helping people make deep, life long changes. Now understand we miss a lot of the moments that go on off camera where contestants work through the issues and challenges holding them prisoner in their own body. During a weigh in, contestant Jesse finally broke through the 300 pound barrier. He stood up on the podium and told the world he was promising to never see 300 pounds again. Show host Ali Sweeney asked him if he would shake on it. He said he’d shake with anyone. She walked over, looked him in the eye as she shook his hand and promised to hold him to his word.
In that moment, a contract was made. Jesse accepted responsibility for his future. He determined that he is answerable for his conduct regarding his weight going forward. He is in charge of making sure that he does the things required to make sure he stays below the 300 pound mark. On the other side of the contract, Ali stated she would hold him accountable for his words and actions. She is taking responsibility for making sure that he explains or justifies his conduct going forward.
When used together, an acceptance of responsibility and counter offer of accountability are powerful tools. Jesse now knows that if he falters in his actions, there is a person who will be there questioning him. This gives him additional incentive to stay true to his plan of action.
When I started my own journey to fitness and health, one of the most powerful statements I read came from Bill Phillip’s book, Body-for-LIFE. In the book, Bill asked if I would, “..trust anyone who repeatedly lied to you? Someone who broke the rules of the game again and again?” The answer was obviously no. At that time i5 was a cornerstone in my new foundation. Accepting that I’d been lying to myself repeatedly created a situation where I was aware of the behavior. In becoming aware of the behavior I had to accept responsibility for my conduct and actions.
Ironically at around the same time I read Rudy Giuliani’s book, Leadership. Then mayor of New York City, Giuliani had a sign on his desk with two words, “I’M RESPONSIBLE.” This sign covered his philosophy on leadership in a nutshell. Leaders need to not only accept the praise when things go right, they need to accept the blame when things go wrong. That concept was a huge shift for me. In learning to accept that I was responsible for good and bad, I gained incentive to work to solve problems and not just stand around and assess blame. Sure it didn’t help my weight loss if coworkers brought pizza into the store while I was working and offered me a slice, but I wasn’t going to make them responsible for my actions. Once I realized there was an issue it was my job to fix it. Period. That could be anything from throwing the offending food out to having a sit down with the team and explain why pizza was not something we could order in.
This concept worked in other areas outside of weight loss. When a customer made me aware of an issue, I accepted responsibility for the situation. The next step would be identifying the source of the problem and putting answers in place to fix it. If staff were unwilling to make the corrections, then more assertive action was required. In making them aware of the situation, now they were also responsible for making sure the corrections were made. My job was now to hold them accountable for making sure the corrections were properly made, just like my customer would hold me accountable.
There’s power in learning to accept responsibility and even more power in understanding what it means to hold people accountable. When you are willing to hold others accountable for words and actions you help build stronger people. None of us like to let the people around us down. That’s why workout buddies help increase workout compliance.
Several weeks ago, Bill Phillips was made aware that some members on his website were experiencing painful and harmful situations. Like a good leader, Bill stepped up and accepted responsibility for those situations and professed a desire to make amends. I’m curious if he’s actually taken the next step. It’s been six weeks, which is a reasonable amount of time to make some phone calls and send out apologies. Has it happened?
Words without action are hollow. So just like I do with my clients, I’m asking what actions are being taken to move the situation forward. If he’s delegating these actions to others, is he following up on them?
Accountability is a contract. It’s an agreement to help push someone to the next level. I look forward to hearing that Bill is reaching that next level.