Intrinsic accountability, and the ability to identify when one is accountable, is fundamental to the mindset of an entrepreneur.
If I were to ask you right now –
are you good at accepting being accountable in business situations?
The usual gut reaction is to say yes.
Because on a surface level all of us like to think that we’re accountable. And saying anything other than yes is generally perceived to be almost a sign of weakness or dishonesty. Which is why no matter how many times I ask you – are you good at being accountable – I’ll never actually get the straight answer – or the long, reflective answer that i know you’re thinking about internally, which is what I’m after. So perhaps I’ll rephrase the question..
“How good are you at accepting accountability in your mind?”
Now the reason I ask this, is because the more effective you are at identifying, accepting, and understanding when you are accountable in any business scenario, the more effective your business decisions will be. And the less influence bias and rash conclusions will have on those decisions.
A great example is the founder who encourages everyone in their team when things are going great, but then blames everyone and everything else when things are going wrong. And can’t accept responsibility for any outcome, or voids any accountability by attributing negative outcomes to other people or variables they can’t control like, “our startup failed because the market went soft, or competitors beat us, or we couldn’t differentiate ourselves, or we had a bad supplier.”
As soon as you hear a founder who purposefully ignores any of their own execution as a proponent to a negative outcome, it’s an indication that they’re still early in development as an entrepreneur, and certainly don’t have this key component of the entrepreneurs mindset nailed down.
In this next exercise I’m going to test your intrinsic accountability levels.
To begin the accountability test, first I need you to think back to a time that you felt hard-done-by, and one that really hit you. In fact that still gets to you even today. The best event to use for this is a past failed relationship with a person you really care or cared about. Because even thinking about it brings you straight back to the time and place, and all the events and emotions you experienced at the time. If you don’t have one of those, think back to the last time you we’re in a situation where you we were really frustrated, like when you had an argument with someone. As long as the event involved people it’s fine.
Now, open the exercise template below – or just open a blank document:
And I’d like to write down the following:
on a scale of 1-10, how much of the situation was caused by the other person, and was their fault.
So do that now.
And now write down, also
on a scale of 1 to 10, how much of it was caused by you, and was your fault.
Obviously, your answer is going to vary on the situation and all the variables at play.
But I’m going to make an educated guess say that the first number was higher than the second.
Am I right?
For most people, a lot of the time it will be – and this is due in part to the natural self-regulatory processes we develop to achieve self-preservation.
Now what If I told you – to your face – that you know what. That’s completely incorrect. You’re wrong. It was 80 – to potentially 100%…
How does that make you feel?
Do you feel that sinking anger feeling?
As if you’re paralyzed or lost for words by the sheer number of points that you have to say to combat what I just said. Like “but
They did this.
They did that.
They’re this, they’re that.”
If you do, I want you to stop right now and take in this moment.
Take in exactly how your feeling. And be able to identify it.
Because most people don’t get past it, which means that they can’t reflect on the actual event without looking outside their lens of bias, and cherry picking all the variables of the situation that support the conclusion that affirms what they want to believe and hear.
And this is because we often recall the parts of events that are convenient, affirmative and constructive, and validate our self-preservation. As opposed to recalling all the variables associated with it, regardless of being negative or positive.
Now, back to the event you’ve chosen to analyse, if you can just bring yourself to put aside all the things you dwell on about the event, and all the things you say to people about it, when they ask you about it – then – you’ll most likely make some revelational discoveries. And the Most revealing of those – is that –
you were actually more accountable than you thought.
So I want you to dig deep – even if it’s painful – and do the following exercise for me.
Draw up a table with 5 rows and 3 columns – or just use the template I’ve given you.
In the 1st column, write down 5 things that went wrong in the event or relationship you’ve chosen to analyse.
And in column 2 – for each of those things – write a line about what you possibly could have done to have caused it / made it worse / been accountable for it.
Then in column 3, write a line about what you could have done to improve or fix the situation.
And you have to be brutally honest otherwise this exercise is pointless – and you’ll hurt your chances of attaining this critical piece of the entrepreneurs mindset. I think its safe to say that being brutally honest is a universal and prevalent component of entrepreneurship!
So these are the types of realizations you might be coming to:
If you’re writing about a relationship, for the first point in column A you might have:
person X became extremely possessive of me and made it impossible for me to have any friends.
And In column B for this point, after some deep thinking, you may come to the following conclusion.
Either my behavior towards other people exacerbated the situation, or I didn’t put enough effort into ensuring that person X knew that I was devoted to them and felt they could trust me, or I simply didn’t communicate that time with my friends was important to me and find some way of compromising.
Which is a very mature and well thought-out conclusion to arrive to.
And in column C for this one we might have.
I could have made this situation better by communicating what I felt, and acknowledging what person X was feeling, and listening to why they there we acting the way they did, then amend any of my behavior that made the situation worse.
And that – is the thought process of a true entrepreneur.
By the way, did you feel a big weight lift off your shoulders by the time you got to column C?
All of the sudden you’re forced to really evaluate – and finally accept accountability for actions of yours – that you had never previously accepted or identified as to do with you before.
Now go back to questions we had in step 1, and answer them again. (do this in step 4 if you’re using the template)
And see what happens.
Hopefully you can see already that doing this exercise is immensely powerful at preparing your internal self-regulatory processes for executing as an entrepreneur.
In fact, the first time I did this, I was just in a state of shock and disorientation for 30 minutes. I was like. OMG. In so many of these situations – not all of them – but many of them – I was significantly more accountable than I thought I was, and sometimes, fully accountable. And it was only at that moment that I really owned being accountable for them.
You know, going back to the beginning of this post, I asked, are you good at accepting accountability in business situations?
And if that question now holds an entirely new meaning for you.
Then my job is done.
And you can get back to taking on the world.