Porter’s Preface: Embrace Accountability

January 5th, 2010 by admin

Today we begin Chapter 17 of Bootstrap Business, Embrace Accountability.

Why do you want to be an entrepreneur? If you answered, “To be my own boss,” or “to be able to do things my way,” that’s okay, but you need to remember that this kind of freedom comes with a price. In short, personal ownership equals personal accountability. Accountability means not affixing blame and finding solutions instead. It is doing the right thing because it’s the right thing. It is taking ownership of your choices and all of the resulting consequences. There’s no “pick and choose” here.

I am—and Rich is—fascinated by people who, without concern for the outcome, just do the right thing. I am also intrigued by those who, in an effort to avoid being held accountable, do whatever (right or wrong) it takes to avoid accountability. It is our belief that many people choose to not be accountable because they fear the unknown. If you fear accountability, it follows that you will fear entrepreneurship.

In the beginning, entrepreneurship can seem like a deep, dark pit of accountability. There aren’t very many sure bets to be had when starting your own venture, but there is always this one: for better or for worse, you are responsible for whatever happens. Among the things you’ll put on the line are your money, your reputation, and your motivation. Some, after embarking on their own entrepreneurial journey, look accountability in the face and turn tail and run back to the comfortable, secure corporate world.

For some, accountability is an acquired taste. To really enjoy it, you must learn to trust yourself, your judgment, your partners, and your venture. When you get the mixture just right, it can be quite sweet, even exhilarating. You’ll learn to savor the thrill of making decisions and standing behind them, knowing that you’re personally accountable. You might just decide you wouldn’t have it any other way.

The tendency for far too many individuals is to avoid accountability rather than embrace it. Following are some examples of avoiding and embracing accountability Rich and I have witnessed during our personal experience in the corporate world. As you review these, consider which side of the ledger you find yourself on. What about your employees? What about your vendors or partners? Do you avoid or embrace accountability? What about those you rely on? Here’s the bottom line: make accountability personal to you and those  you deal with. Here are some clear indicators that will help you identify when accountability is being embraced and when it’s not.

Avoiding Accountability

  1. “That’s not my job.”
  2. “I can’t find anything to do.”
  3. “Why do we need a self-improvement class at work?”
  4. “When is upper management going to get it right?”
  5. “I’ve been working here a year, and I still don’t have a job description – what am I supposed to be doing anyway?”
  6. “Whose stupid idea was this team-building activity?”
  7. And even: “No, don’t bother me about that until tomorrow. I go home too soon to worry about it right now.

Embracing Accountability

  1. “I’d love to help, what do you need me to do?”
  2. “I did it because it needed doing.”
  3. “I’m glad the company is providing us the opportunity to learn and apply self-improvement techniques.”
  4. “Maybe upper management hasn’t made the right choice because they don’t have enough data. How can we help them get that data?”
  5. “No, I don’t have a job description. I’ve just observed and determined where we needed help and jumped in.”
  6. “Yes, I’d love to participate in a team-building activity!”

I remember a great teaching moment that occurred at one of my son’s baseball games. Jory was in the batter’s box, waiting for the pitch. The pitcher let the ball go, and it headed straight for Jory’s head. Jory thought, “curve ball,” and stayed in the box. At the last second, the ball didn’t curve! He took the ball in the face, which broke his nose. As my son and I sat in the emergency room, I tried to make him feel better, “That was a really good job, son.” Jory, peering at me quizzically, remarked, “Dad, I got hit in the face with the ball!” “Yeah,” I told him. “But you stayed in the box!”

Accountability can sometimes feel like a curve ball to the face. Or, more accurately, a failed curve ball. It might hurt, but the satisfaction of “staying in” is far greater than the fleeting feeling of safety as you jump out of the way of accountability.

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