Accountability’s Shortfall

Accountability is touted as the end-all be-all answer, but here is one clear area for improvement.

“Accountability” is everywhere. Everyone must be held accountable. You must hold yourself accountable. You need to hold your teammates accountable. You should hold your boss accountable. 

I get it – the concept is important. The importance of holding people responsible for their words and actions cannot be understated. People should answer for their negligence, nonperformance, and transgressions and must stand behind their words and actions, own them, and face any consequences coming from them.

However, “accountability” is quickly becoming an overplayed idea; and worse yet, misapplied as the standard to resolve issues in areas of personal performance and behavior. Many say it; “accountability over everything”. It has become the marching orders of many individuals and corporations alike. 

There is one major flaw that we can improve upon, though.

What is Accountability

At its core, accountability simply states that people cannot act without having to answer for those actions. A code of acceptable conduct must be upheld and those that violate it must be held responsible. At its extreme, accountability is a thinly veiled threat.

Accountability’s largest handicap as an idea is that it is reactionary. Accountability requires that an act must first happen before there is an opportunity to work toward an answer. With this, accountability treats the symptoms of a larger problem rather than solve the problem itself; searching for answers rather than solutions. The solution to the root problem becomes secondary to holding the violating party accountable. Much like a game of Whack-a-Mole, the symptoms will continue to rear their heads requiring further accountability to smack them back down.

At best, accountability’s potential to be proactive is derived from one’s awareness that they may be held accountable for their actions. This knowledge may make them consider their actions before acting, but it may not. This approach is only marginally better than acting first and being held accountable later as the motivation to act correctly is not sound. These actions do not come from a place within oneself as dictated by an internal code of conduct, rather, it is the surroundings that are dictating the actions of the individual. 

Accountability exists outside of an individual – someone or something external to the individual assigns accountability. If a person does not recognize the authority of such surroundings, there is no hope for accountability to have any success in influencing behavior. Even when holding oneself accountable, this remains true (I’ll get to it).

A Two Party System

Accountability will forever be a two-party system. It defines a social dynamic in which one party must answer to another. One party must be accepted as an authority and the other party subservient to it; ie. those holding others accountable and those being held accountable, respectively. This is the fundamental principle that accountability is created upon. 

Two Parties When Holding Oneself Accountable

As stated above this two party concept still applies when holding oneself accountable. In such instances, there must be within a person an elevated version of themselves to which the current version is being held accountable. Those doughnuts and cupcakes must be answered for, the subsequent missed workout must be answered for, the laziness and netflix binge must be answered for; but to who? This elevated vision of what one should be is the authority providing the key piece of the accountability formula. 

The Alternative

550 words in and I have not offered a solution yet. Well, here it is.

There is more value in focusing on preventing the need for accountability – something that will prevent problems from surfacing to begin with. This alternate will empower individuals to take control back within themselves and exceed the expectations of their surroundings.

That alternate; that precursor to accountability is discipline.

Discipline is a far superior concept to accountability and what should instead be touted as the answer in matters of personal performance. As discipline comes from within rather than based on a judgement of the surroundings, there is unmatched consistency and power in its practice. It takes what was outsourced by accountability and brings it back within the individual. The individual does not need to answer to anyone because through discipline, there will be nothing to answer for.

Where accountability will step in and identify responsible parties, sequence of events, and succeed in pinpointing the exact entity responsible for the current situation, discipline could have prevented the situation from ever occurring, rendering accountability unnecessary. 

Solutions; Not Answers

Discipline is a solution rather than an answer; it will resolve the problems that accountability is hired to treat. Deadlines will be met, obstacles overcome, and progress made in whatever arena one is playing in. 

Accountability Isn’t Necessary Until Something Happens

The truth is no one thinks about accountability when everything goes right; and why would they? There is no reason to investigate for responsibility when the task has been completed. 

With this, why continue to tout accountability as the answer when discipline precedes it? 

Through focusing on discipline the finger-pointing inherent to accountability will disappear and the constructed hierarchy will cease to exist. It is a win in every category.

Discipline is what performs. Accountability pokes discipline in the eye when it has failed.

Forge discipline and rely on yourself. Stop relying on accountability. 

Yours in strength

-Jersey

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