The Irony of Accountability


As the clock's hands ticked away, I sat down tonight to pen an article about accountability for business leaders.

The irony? I was grappling with the very concept I wanted to discuss. Here I was, torn between the accountability to you, my readers, and my commitment to the comfort of my bed and the rest it provides.

Overwhelmed? Yes. Uninspired? Absolutely. Yet, the commitment to deliver something tonight loomed over me.

This late-night rendez-vous with my keyboard underscores a reality we often overlook: the tangible costs of accountability. For me, at this moment, it's the cost of sleep, a rested mind, and perhaps even my mood tomorrow morning.

But as the minutes passed and the weight of my eyelids grew heavier, I felt the effects of the sunk cost of my efforts. If you're unfamiliar with the term "sunk cost," it refers to a past investment of time, effort, or money that can't be recovered. In this context, it's the energy and time I've already poured into writing, an investment I can't get back.

So, to convince myself to push through, I reminded myself of the very benefits of accountability.

  • Credibility: Upholding our promises, even when tough, boosts our standing. It tells our peers, teams, and clients that we’re reliable.
  • The Ripple Effect: The influence of a kept promise can't be measured in mere numbers. Its positive impact has the potential to inspire, resonate, and create waves of change.
  • The Intangible Returns: Beyond the immediate, there's personal growth, resilience, and a newfound appreciation for commitment. These benefits may not appear on your balance sheets, but they're the gold of leadership.
  • Setting the Tone: When you lean into your accountability, it sets a precedence. It silently communicates, "If I can push through, so can you."

In the backdrop of all these reflections, I've often found myself intentionally nurturing accountability, both as a skill and a core value. I’ve deliberately cultivated it, and there's a profound reason behind it. By honing my accountability, I strengthen my resolve and enhance the caliber of commitment I bring to my clients. It's like refining gold; the more I work on it, the purer it becomes. Thus, when I promise my clients the value of accountability, I offer them a well-practiced, deeply ingrained aspect of my professional character.

As a coach serving business leaders of professional services firms, I've realized that accountability is one of the most significant value pieces my clients buy from me. Hiring a coach isn't just about sharpening skills or refining strategies. At its heart, it's an investment in accountability. A commitment is etched not in contracts but in mutual respect and shared goals.

A revelation hit me some years ago. For certain clients, the true essence of value wasn't in the tangible deliverables of coaching. Instead, it was found in accountability’s intangible yet potent push. This push — sometimes a gentle whisper, sometimes a decisive shove — always guided them closer to their aspirations.

In many ways, accountability is the invisible thread weaving through the fabric of leadership. It's what nudges us forward when the night is dark and the path unclear.

It kept my fingers moving across this keyboard tonight, reminding me about my narrative, the narrative of the expert, reminding me that every word, thought, and action carries weight. It's a weight I willingly bear, knowing the ripple effects of accountability are vast and transformative.

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