The Power of Accountability

by Kevin MacDonald
I feel very privileged to have been asked to bring the ideas, concepts and benefits of coaching to the Club Managers Association of America.  Many of you, as you read this, may not know that you and your colleagues have an opportunity to explore coaching sessions free of charge through the executive career services area of the CMAA web site.  When I was asked to bring coaching to the CMAA, I was excited about the opportunity of giving managers a way to build on their confidence, power and personal security.  Last month in Outlook I wrote an article called “Congratulations, You’ve Lost Your Job” and obviously that article was aimed at those who had gone through that process.  But I also believe the article was valuable for managers who are currently employed.  The article touched on an idea that I’d like to explore further here. 

One of the most powerful aspects of coaching is centered on the word accountability.  If you are working with a coach he or she will help you to see that you are accountable for who you are and who you are not, what you have and what you don’t have, what you believe and what you don’t believe.  Perhaps you are accountable for the problems you are facing and for the way you are being treated.  Maybe you’re accountable for the limits you choose to accept, and the possibilities that you are able to gain.  One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”  For many people this is a novel concept.  Not so much that we need to use a different level of thinking but the possibility that the problems we are facing are ones we have created.   We live in a society where blaming everyone else is commonplace.  For many, being the victim is comfortable.  When we play the victim we can receive sympathy and in some ways this lets us off the hook from having to deal with the problem. 

For those in club management being the victim certainly doesn’t fit with the way we would choose to be seen.  For the past two years I have been conducting coaching sessions at the annual CMAA conferences.  Last year I had an incredible session with a well-respected senior manager who had lost his job.  After a brief period of telling his story and sharing the way he was feeling about how he had been treated he stopped and made an observation.  He said, “I’m being a victim.”  He couldn’t believe it because he had always looked down on people who had taken that sort of approach.  Yet when mired in the emotion of losing a job it’s not hard to react in this way.  With one quick realization and one decision to be accountable for what had happened, and how he would react to it, his attitude, his demeanor and his energy shifted in a moment. 

A coaching session often ends with the client deciding what action he or she will take.  The client is accountable to report back to the coach.  Whenever I do this with my clients, I challenge them to consider this part of the session very carefully.  I ask them to make sure they are not promising something that they don’t believe they can do or will choose not to do.  Because getting into the habit of doing what you say you are going to do is critical.  When my clients report their results back to me at the beginning of the next session we celebrate their success.  If they have not been successful or they haven’t done what they said they were going to do we celebrate that as well because it is moving us closer to understanding why they are not taking accountability.  There is a power in being accountable to yourself and there is a power to being accountable to someone else.  You may have observed it in yourself that you would be very reluctant to let someone else down yet you may be willing to put off those tasks to another day that you are doing for yourself.  My job as a coach is to make sure you are honoring yourself by doing what you say you will do. 

A manager who is accountable is a powerful force.  Just imagine if you could create an organization where every staff member is as passionate about taking accountability, and didn’t fear it.  At a recent Club Managers conference, CMAA member James Cronk was speaking about excellence in service.  He brought tremendous credibility to the presentation because his club is renowned for the level of service they deliver.  One thing in particular that James said left an impression on me.  He said that he does the final interview for every hire in the club and if he believes he is speaking to a worthy candidate he asks them to be very honest with themselves in answering the following question:  “Do you believe that you can get up every morning and come to work here passionate about giving people service at a level beyond what they’ve ever received before?”  This, to me, is a brilliant example of asking every person in an organization to be accountable.

In what areas have you not taken accountability?

If you are having a problem with someone in particular how have you created the problem?

Have your behaviors or tolerations encouraged the other person’s behavior?

Are you or your people afraid to be accountable?

What would it be like in your organization if all of your people took accountability?

Kevin MacDonald
Clarity Success Coaching
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