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We all know that effective accountability breeds stronger performance, so why is it that so many people are resistant to being held accountable? One reason, I believe, is what is termed ‘the accountability fallacy.’

The fallacy is the belief that when expectations go unmet and someone has failed to deliver, it is because something is wrong with them ( click here for more details). It reaches further into the assumption that not only is the person flawed, but often there is little one can do to change it, other than through punishment. Consequently, when we think of the word ‘accountability’ we often jump to the conclusion that it involves criticism, review of failure, disappointment, vulnerability, exposure to weakness and ensuing consequences. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth – if it is done correctly!

Etymologically speaking, the word ‘account‘ is borrowed from the French language and means ‘to render a reckoning; to answer for, to explain or justify.’ However, an important part of this interpretation comes from the Middle French word ‘acompter‘ which includes the definition ‘to include, to value, to consider important.’ When we are held accountable or holding someone accountable, we must make room for the consideration of all important activities and review all the good that is done and not just focus on the deficit.

If my bank only every gave me a bank statement when I was overdrawn and never highlighted the deposits, the interest or the savings – I would feel very uncomfortable. That is one account that I want a full rendering off!

My invitation therefore is simple. Whether we are holding ourselves accountable or holding someone else accountable – let’s focus in a balanced way in revealing the good in others and ourselves. Begin with the assumption that we/they have done the best possible. Let people begin with an ‘A’ and move forward from there. Everyone has a mixture of both strengths and weaknesses. A balanced perspective on both and a healthy dose of validation for the good goes a long way at improving performance.

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