Responsibility, Accountability, and Results

My friend Larry Winget blew up his Facebook following last week when he posted this comment:
“If your life sucks, it’s because you suck!”

The reactions that followed were all over the map with a lot of people outraged that Larry could be so insensitive about the circumstances of others.

Circumstances are Not Your Life

A number of people missed Larry’s point. Your life isn’t defined by your circumstances unless you allow it. There are many people – like my friends W. Mitchell and Chad Hymas – who have refused to allow tragic circumstances that were not their fault define their lives. And, there are others whose lives have spiraled out of control despite living in ideal circumstances.

Circumstances can make it easier or more difficult to succeed. They can define your environment. But ultimately, the choice to be personally responsible and accountable is more important than your circumstances.

It Works for Businesses, Too

Apple Computer, Dell Computer, Microsoft, and Facebook were all founded by college dropouts. Considering their circumstances, you would expect that each of these companies would fail, or at best, achieve only modest success. But that’s not the way it works. Responsibility and accountability combined with determination and focus lead to results.

“How about talent?” you ask.

There are a lot of smart, talented people in the world. There aren’t that many who leverage their talent and intellect with responsibility, focus, and determination.

Do You Have an Accountability Problem?

Here’s a list of seven behaviors that show a lack of responsibility and accountability. If they are present in your organization, delivering the results you want will be more difficult. The same goes for your life.

    1. Blaming others and pointing fingers
    2. Assuming that it is someone else’s responsibility
    3. Blaming the environment or our situation
    4. Settling for effort rather than results
    5. Failure to recognize or tell ourselves and others the truth
    6. Failure to model the accountability we want from others
    7. Settling for compliance rather than doing the hard work of building commitment

Responsibility and accountability are ultimately about ownership. The requirements are always the same for individuals, teams, or entire organizations. Master these four principles, and you will be on your way:

    Own the values and vision: You don’t own your values until you follow them when it would be easier not to do so. You own your vision when you refuse to be distracted by short-term opportunities that do not contribute to your long-term goal.
    Own the situation: You see it – you own it. If a customer is complaining, you own that situation even if you didn’t create the problem. If you aren’t where you want to be on a personal level, you own that, too. You are where you have earned the right to be.
    Own the response and solution: You can’t always control the circumstance, but you can own your response to the situation and responsibility for finding a solution. Don’t blame or pass it off to others. It is your responsibility.
    Own the result: Good or bad, the results you deliver are the results you own. Taking responsibility when things go wrong is only one piece of it. Owning the achievement when the results are positive is equally important.

I’ve given my friend Larry’s quote a lot of thought. I wonder if the blowback would have been the same if the quote said: “If you think your life sucks, it’s because you suck.”

Either way the message is still the same. You just can’t deliver consistent results as an individual, team, or company without personal responsibility and accountability.

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