We are in the final month of the year, and the final year of the decade. We are soon heading into the 21st year of this millennium. Do you remember when we thought moving from 1999 to 2000 would wreak havoc on our technology; the number of things that wouldn’t work unless we overhauled our software? Y2K was pretty much a non-event. Anyway, it is hard for me to believe how much time has passed – where we have been, where we are, and the potential for where we are going.
This is an appropriate topic at the end of the year to help determine what worked, what could have gone better, and what else needs to happen in the coming year to experience a better year. Organizations do this on a routine basis near year end. Departments also work through similar questions. This months’ exploration is more about what this journey requires from us. This is a very personal consideration for it is an exploration of not only our business life, but what is going on, and needs to go on in our personal life. I hope you find value in this exploration.
It is the week of Thanksgiving as I write this. For me, it begins the season of celebration and thanksgiving. I hope this week will bring you in contact with many people that give you energy, some wonderful food, some reminders that the overwhelming amount of the world’s population will not have in many weeks the amount of food we will consume at one meal. I don’t need for you to feel bad about that, just aware, and from that awareness a willingness to act to share.
Have an awesome holiday season!
Be well and do your best work,
“Blame and victim thinking are so ingrained into the fabric of our society it’s hard to find a role model anywhere who simply practices personal accountability in all things. “ – John G. Miller
How often do you hear, when someone is asking “what happened,” an explanation that is more about something or someone else being to ‘blame’ for what happened? It is refreshing when I hear someone respond to ‘what happened’ with, “It is my fault.”
My work in this area (personal accountability) crosses, on a regular basis, children and adults who want to become more self-responsible and self-accountable for their lives. Much of what I observe is disturbing – that we could be doing better to help our children develop a strong sense of their responsibility and accountability to themselves and others.
This subject is very personal for me because I grew up with a brother who believed he wasn’t self-response-able. My mother clearly saw something in him that told her that he wasn’t as capable. As a result, her instinct was to ‘do for’ him (i.e., run interference in school when he didn’t turn in assignments, make excuses for him, give him money when he didn’t have enough). My mother was an enabler. To this day, I don’t know if my brother was the way he was because of my mother, or he saw life a certain way and developed a victim’s mentality.
As I went off to college I noticed that some people believed that life happened to them. Over time this victim mentality manifested in some as, “Life owes me something because of all the bad stuff that has happened to me.”
Whether we like it or not, life owes us nothing. Life doesn’t happen to us, it just happens. I am not saying that some of the horrific things that can happen aren’t unfair. They are. It doesn’t change that life isn’t happening to us. In lies a subtle, but important differentiation. The only power we have is how we react to those ‘events’ of life. It is the power of choice.
At 29 my mother died of pancreatic cancer. I remember being angry at God for about three years. Not because my mother died, but the way she died – what seemed to be an inch at a time. I came to understand that being a Christian wasn’t some special shield against the worst things in life. Shortly thereafter I lost my job, and roughly nine months later my daughter was born. If I was being ‘targeted’ in some awful ways, then I was targeted in a good way with the birth of my child. I learned that I wasn’t being targeted at all; this was life.
I go back to these memories and these lessons because personal responsibility and accountability are learned and reinforced while we are young. I learned over time what it looked like to have a co-dependent relationship (what I described between my mother and brother), and the ‘dis-ability’ that can be done. I saw some of the same dynamics in my own family. I also saw the dynamic at work in the business world – a pattern of ‘doing for’ others thinking that you were being helpful. I also learned that co-dependency is about our convenience, not helpfulness (we ‘do for’ because it is the behavior that is most convenient for us). A quick example. If you are a leader, how often have you corrected someone’s work rather than have the person responsible correct it? The rationale I frequently hear is, “I can fix it faster and do it better, than the person whose mistake I am correcting.” True, but not helpful in developing another.
How does this play out at work? In the book Propeller, authors Tanner Corbridge, Jared Jones, Craig Hickman, and Tom Smith put it succinctly. There is a line that separates the productive behavior from the unproductive. The unproductive behavior is focused on the things they don’t control (ignore and deny the problem, point fingers at others, cover their tails so they can get off the hook, claim that its not their job, act confused while they wait for someone to tell them what to do, or just wait and see if the problem goes away). People focused above the line focus on what they can control and assume accountability for resolving the issues or problems. They take four steps toward that resolution – See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It. These people strive to get better results.
My observation is that there are those people that will “work the problem” rather than “working the solution.” They want to dwell on what was/is rather than focusing on what can be. They are often people who see themselves as victims. They spend a great deal of time and energy talking about what can’t happen and why.
I’m not always sure where or how the ‘orientation’ we choose for how we live our life. I know, for me, it started at a young age. Looking back I know that the motivation I had for certain decisions about my philosophy of life was a motivation to be successful and the behaviors of success were often the ones that gave me energy. I also know that the path to being more productive included some time ‘below the line.’ At times it seemed easier to blame circumstances and others for failure. I came to understand that it may have been easier, it simply wasn’t better.
My final encouragement is for you to understand that accountability is not about what somebody else holds you to, it is what you hold yourself to; what you decide to bring to your life.
To your journey and living out the best version of you…
Of Interest: Steps to a Personal Accountability Plan https://www.partnersinleadership.com/insights-publications/developing-a-personal-accountability-plan/
Coaching – Coaching is the fastest way to take you to another level of effectiveness.
If you are looking for a higher version of yourself or your organization, that’s what we do. Contact us. firstname.lastname@example.org OR 317-753-6017