When asked to identify their primary values, entrepreneurs often list independence, autonomy, and self-determination. Rarely cited, is the value of accountability, which is often a prerequisite to the other values.

Defined as being responsible, or called to account for one’s actions, accountability implies both a structure and obligation for achievement. Yet, entrepreneurs longing for sovereignty and control, often forget the value of defined outcomes, unambiguous deadlines, and consequential accountability.

How does someone who is self-employed or working remotely balance the power to drive every decision with the lack of external controls that often generate action? If you are one of the select few blessed with untiring self-motivation and eternal inspiration you can stop reading, for the rest of us, we need to embrace the value of accountability and create a “structure for success” which often includes:

  • a clear goal – know why* you want to achieve it,
  • a strategic plan – with explicit timeline of actions,
  • a sense of obligation – to someone or something beyond yourself, and
  • a consequence – where the pain of failure is as strong or stronger than the pleasure of success

Throughout my career I have worked as a social worker, life and career coach, and outplacement consultant (to name just a few), and one thing that I share with all of my clients, is the desire for feedback; not only positive recognition of my talents and strengths, but also constructive feedback on how I can do better.

Jane Austen’s insight is not commonly consulted in the world of business literature; however, I find this scene in chapter 7 of the novel Emma to be quite relevant. Mr. Knightley confronts the title character after she has harshly teased another woman in public. He takes her aside and declares,
“It was badly done, indeed! You…in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her…and before others. [Telling you] this is not pleasant to you, Emma—and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must…I will tell you truths while I can.”
By accosting Emma in this manner and holding her accountable for the impact of her behavior, Mr. Knightley is defending what he believes to be her true character and inherent nature.

We are all capable of being uncaring and unmotivated at times. What a gift it is to have someone who can see beyond that particular moment and serve as a guardian of our better Self.

Knowing that others recognize our potential and are invested in our growth feeds our values and makes us feel valued. Do you have someone to challenge your weaknesses, celebrate your strengths, and allow you the opportunity to make amends when you fall short?

This accountability can come in the form of a personal friend, professional mentor, coach, colleague, client, stakeholder, business class, or professional development community such as our PEER MASTERMIND at WORK_SPACE.

Only you can figure out why you are doing what you are doing and what structure is necessary for your success, however, we at WORK_SPACE are here to help. Feel free to come to any of our networking of development programs (see calendar), make an appointment with Shelly at the CT Small Business Development Center on the 2nd floor (michelle.koehler@uconn.edu), or talk to any of our associates about the Peer Mastermind Program or other resources available.

In the meantime, here are 4 reflective questions and 1 action prompt to help you integrate the value of accountability.

  1. What is your relationship with accountability? For example, is structure motivating or smothering, are you driven by intellectual reasons or get more done when emotionally inspired?
  2. To whom or what are you currently accountable?
  3. In what areas of your life does accountability show up the most, and the least?
  4. How has accountability served you in the past? How can it serve you more in the future?
  5. Select a goal to accomplish. Determine when you want to complete it, and why it is important to you. What accountability will you put in place to support your goal?