5 Ways to Improve Your Personal Accountability

The Bible exhorts us, “Pay careful attention to yourselves ….” We are to consider carefully the direction and management of our lives  We are accountable for our own selves.

Taking responsibility for our personal growth, emotions, relationships and decisions is the hallmark of maturity.

Yet we struggle seeing ourselves as responsible for our own effectiveness and enjoyment. Our first tendency is to excuse ourselves, to blame someone else, or the circumstances, but we must resist “shifting” and take ownership of our words, attitudes, emotions and behaviors.

The Benefits

There are some big payoffs for mastering personal accountability. Here are just a few:

  • Increased trust. People know they can depend on you, that you will keep your word. You are not subject to your emotional moods, but recognize and effectively manage them.
  • Improved leadership. Self-confidence, initiative, resiliency, and ownership of decisions and outcomes leads to greater personal and organizational effectiveness.
  • Healthier relationships. Just imagine the relational improvement if we blamed others less, admitted our mistakes, owned our wrongs, and listened more.
  • Better use of time. Procrastination is a struggle for many of us. We tend to put off a difficult assignment, or a problem that needs attention until hopefully someone else will do it, or it will somehow magically go away. Personal accountability accepts responsibility and uses “now” to address issues and solve problems.

5 Core Behaviors

Personal accountability is learned behavior. We become more accountable by practicing these behavioral skills:

  1. Honesty. Be ruthlessly committed to telling the truth no matter the cost. Such courage is foundational to personal accountability. Is there risk? Yes. But you will earn something greater – respect!
  2. Admit when you are wrong. This is corollary to honesty. Avoid excuses, justification, rationale and just say, “I was wrong.” You may fear this makes you look weak but as Amy Rees Anderson points out, admitting your are wrong is not a sign of weakness but of integrity and fortitude.
  3. Own the results of your choices. This is easy to do when the outcome is positive. But not everything turns out the way we want, expect, or hope. Sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes it’s not. Either way “it is.” Again, no excuses, just admit, “I am where I am because of the choices I’ve made.”
  4. Don’t overcommit. No is a legitimate word. If you overcommit, something will get dropped, and someone disappointed. So think carefully about your priorities and your schedule before you agree to another appointment or task.
  5. Be teachable. How do you respond to well-intentioned feedback? Are you willing and eager to receive instruction and correction? The counsel of others is invaluable to personal growth. Let those who are ahead of you on life’s journey speak wisdom into your life.

Which of the 5 Core Behaviors do you need to work on? Choose one. The one you think will make the greatest positive impact on your own life, and on those around you. What steps can you take today to implement this behavior?

6 Disciplines of the Effective Leader

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© A-papantoniou | Dreamstime.com

Leadership is a decision. It is born our of a desire to see something significant happen for, in and through the lives of others.

Leadership is not chasing or cherishing a position, but choosing to serve for the good of those you lead.

If you choose to lead you can develop the qualities of a leader worth following.

What are these qualities?

The Six Disciplines

My friend, Dr. Jim Laub, is the author of the Organizational Leadership Assessment, a heavily researched model of servant leadership. He identifies six disciplines that when practiced make for effective leadership, and an effective organization.

1. Provide Leadership. This involves establishing vision and direction. Paint a clear picture of the preferred future.

Take into account the dreams and aspirations of those you lead. They need to see themselves in the picture. Test your vision with them, and be open to their input.

Articulate the vision clearly, deliver it passionately, and implement it relentlessly.

I have found, particularly in smaller organizations, that being caught up in management costs you effective leadership. Do all you can to free yourself from operational management so you can champion the vision and develop strategies to fulfill it.

2. Build Community. Healthy relationships result in organizational enjoyment and effectiveness. Partnership, collaboration, and teamwork are terms that describe community. But they need to be more than words.

Genuine caring, understanding the needs of those you lead, embracing differences, and personal presence – engaged presence – are strong indicators of a healthy community.

What are the community-building steps you are taking as a leader?

3. Value People. Listening to, trusting, and serving those you lead communicates they are valued. Joel Manby, President and CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment, and the author of Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders draws his leadership principles from, “The Love Chapter” of the Bible – 1 Corinthians 13.

  • Be patient
  • Be kind
  • Be trusting
  • Be unselfish
  • Be truthful
  • Be forgiving
  • Be dedicated

When these qualities are consistently practiced people feel valued.

4. Display Authenticity. At its core leadership is a trust relationship between the leader and the led. To be authentic is to be real – open, honest, and unmasked.

I can admit my failures, weaknesses, and shortcomings. This creates connection with those I leave. We are on the same level playing field and I can learn from them.

5. Develop People. Providing learning opportunities, involving people in the decisions that directly affect them, and delivering encouragement and affirmation helps people improve in what they do, as well as advance in the level of their responsibilities.

Everyone needs appreciation, and effective leaders recognize the contributions of others. They give public praise, and know how to celebrate victories.

6. Share Leadership. Effective leaders consider themselves a resource rather than a director. They see those they lead as partners.

Sharing leadership involves dispersing power and decision-making authority, creating an environment where people are free to take initiative and deferring tot others who have more expertise.

Leaders must be intentional about these six disciplines if they are to be effective. Do they mark you leadership?

In which of the six disciplines can you improve? 

Improving Your Self-Motivation

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Do you have ideas you want to implement, or projects you want to do, but never seem to get them done? How hard do you push yourself to achieve what you really want in life? Your answers to these questions reveal something about your self-motivation.

Self-motivation is your internal drive to keep moving forward. It presses on in the face of obstacles and opposition. It doesn’t give in to the fear of possible failure, or get paralyzed by thinking your efforts may not be good enough.

Here are four basic principles to help you take initiative in the direction of your desires.

1. Be confident. I don’t mean prideful or arrogant, but realistic about the abilities God has given you. It’s not humble to sell yourself short or put yourself down – it’s just defeating self-talk. Know your strengths and build on them. What have you done well and enjoyed doing? Make a list. Your confidence increases as you see a track record of what you’ve already achieved.

2. Set Goals: Research indicates that challenging goals lead to increased effort and a greater level of commitment toward achievement. Goals provide a clear sense of direction, and act as  promises to yourself – ones you’ll want to keep.

I use, and encourage others to use, the SMART process of setting goals. Write out each goal using this formula:

Specific: What exactly will you accomplish?

Measurable:  How will you know when you have reached this goal?

Achievable: Is achieving this goal realistic with effort and commitment?  Have you the resources to achieve this goal?  If not, how will you get them?  

Relevant: Why is this goal significant to you, or your organization? Is it in line with your priorities?

Time-Bound: When will this goal be achieved? Set a date.

Break big, long-term goals into smaller pieces (sub-goals). Winning at these smaller, easier to reach sub-goals provides encouragement and a feeling of success as you move toward completion of the end goal.

3. Monitor progress. Give yourself regular feedback. Ask, “How am I doing? What is going well. What do I like best about how I am progressing toward my goal? What do I need to do next so I stay on target, or get back on target.” Establish regular “check-in” dates and congratulate yourself for progress made.

4. Reward yourself. Recognition and reward are critical when seeking to provide a motivational environment for others, and they are necessary when you want to increase your self-motivation. Don’t wait until the end goal has been reached, reward yourself as you achieve steps on the journey to completion. You need to decide what reward is meaningful. It may be:

  • reading a good book at your favorite coffee spot
  • buying something small for yourself
  • watching a good movie
  • getting away for a half-day
  • paying someone to clean your house, or do the yardwork
  • play golf, or go fishing

Whatever it is, reward yourself for your progress.

 How are you going to improve your self-motivation?

3 Keys to Effective Conflict Engagement


Conflict happens. And that’s not bad. Unfortunately, too many people think that if conflict exists than unity and harmony doesn’t. Consequently we become opponents instead of collaborative partners, and progress grinds to a halt.

Conflict can be healthy for a relationship, a team, and an organization. The issue is not conflict itself, but what type of conflict, and how we handle it that is often the problem.

Unhealthy conflict is often targeted at the other person, does not work toward a solution, may involve denial, avoidance, hurtful, even abusive speech, and doesn’t advance or improve the relationship, or the project.

Healthy conflict may be very passionate in presenting positions and opinions, yet it’s motivation is solution oriented. It can help heighten awareness of the problem, bring concerns out into the open, and sharpen understanding of problem complexities, leading to better outcomes.

Here are three keys for handling conflict well.

1. Address the issue, not the person. There is no place, nor should there be tolerance for personal attack, sarcasm, demeaning speech and other toxic behaviors. Neither is it beneficial to be focused on pinning the blame when things go wrong. Separate the idea from the individual and speak to it.

I have often said, “This is a crucial, critical issue we need to discuss. I am placing it in the middle of the table, and we are going to speak to the issue on the table, and not at the person across the table.”

2. Establish rules of engagement. This is a shared agreement stating how we want to speak and behave with each other.  What is acceptable, and what is unacceptable? Where is the line that when crossed moves us from constructive to destructive conflict? The best time to create these norms is when a team first forms, but if it wasn’t done, than now is the next best time.

Does this remove all toxic conflict behaviors? No. But you are much more aware of when you cross the line, and are able to correct yourselves, and move back to healthy conflict.

2  When a decision is made, support it. You may still disagree, but you have had your input, you have made your case – now it’s time to implement the solution.

I was privileged to have a good mentor who demonstrated by example how to passionately make your case, and support the outcome you disagreed with. We served on the same committee within a college Board of Trustees. I was young and new to the position, and he was older, wiser, and had served a number of years on the Board. In committee meetings we would determine a course of action which then had to be taken to the full Board for approval. My mentor would argue his case with passion, insight, and all the persuasiveness he could muster, and if the rest of us didn’t see it the same way, he had no problem registering his disagreement with our final decision. But then, when we presented it to the Board for adoption, he would be the one who seconded the motion, and then speak favorably about the proposal. At first, I was surprised and asked him if he had changed his mind. “Oh, no,” he said, “I still don’t think it’s a wise decision, but I had my say, I made my case, and couldn’t persuade the rest of the committee. We are a team, it was our decision, and now it is my responsibility to support that decision, and help implement it to better the organization.”  And then he added, “If I let my disagreement be known to the whole Board, it will heighten tension, reduce harmony, and undermine unity.”

That’s mature management of disagreement and conflict.

In The Advantage Patrick Lencioni states,

Even when people can’t come to an agreement around an issue, they must still leave the room unambiguously committed to a common course of action.

Conflict is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be damaging. By learning to engage in healthy conflict you, your team, or your organization can make better decisions, and establish a culture of true collaboration.