We’ve been working our way through sociologist and thought leader, Dr. Brene Brown’s acronym in her teaching on the Anatomy of Trust:
Trust is vital for team engagement and effectiveness.
Trust is vital for an authentic relationship. Trust is vital for effective ministry.
When working to build trust in relationships, or repair a relationship where trust has been broken, we can go through this acronym like an inventory, identify the broken places, and bring focused and effective healing.
B is for Boundaries.
R is for Reliable.
A is for Accountable
Accountable: uh-koun-tuh-buh l
Adjective: subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable. (Dictionary.com)
What is it?
Accountability is about owning and being responsible for our behavior and spoken words. When we dodge requests for explanations, avoid being associated with the consequences of our actions, or look to place blame on someone else, we are not being accountable. Accountability is about transparency and responsibility.
What does it have to do with trust?
Brene Brown quotes Charles Feltman’s definition of trust, “ “Choosing to make something [that is] important to you, vulnerable to the actions of someone else.” She goes on to say, “I can only trust you if, when you make a mistake, you are willing to own it, apologize for it, and make amends; I can only trust you if when I make a mistake, I am allowed to own it, apologize for it and make amends. No accountability, no trust.”
This makes sense. We all admire a person who will admit to their mistakes. Which is interesting because when we make a mistake, it seems like we have an almost instinctive response to hide it, cover it up, distance ourselves from it, or blame someone else. We think our mistake will make us look bad, or even cause people to lose trust in us. But the opposite is true. When we own our mistakes… when we are willing to apologize… when we seek to make things right, we increase in trustworthiness. And when I make it safe for other people to own their mistakes with me, I also become more trustworthy.
What can we do about it?
Josh Miller, Master Certified Coach and Director of Learning & Talent Development at PayPal, has a lot to say about personal accountability, “People who take responsibility for their actions speak up, and they look for solutions when there’s a problem. They don’t get into the blame game or begin finger pointing”. In his article here, he goes on to identify these tips for becoming more personally accountable:
- Know your role
- Be humble
- Own your mistakes
- Manage your time
- Don’t overcommit
- Ask for feedback
In addition, from my own experience, I’ve found it helpful to follow these guidelines in staying accountable:
- Lay down the fear of embarrassment.
- Put to death the impulse to find an excuse.
- Never, never, never blame someone else for your own actions or consequences of your actions.
And finally, maybe we can all benefit from a lesson in How-to-Offer-an-Authentic-Apology. Brene Brown, in a conversation with Harriet Lerner here, discusses the art of a ‘Heartfelt Apology’. Lerner identifies some of the sublte ways we make our apologies ineffective.
“ Little add-ons like “but” (“I’m sorry I forgot your birthday but I was stressed out with work”) or “if” (“I’m sorry if that joke I made at the meeting offended you”) will turn your sorry into a not-sorry-at-all. Another common way we ruin an apology is to basically say, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or “I’m sorry that what I said made you upset.” There’s no accountability here. You’re saying, in effect, “I’m sorry you reacted the way you did to my perfectly reasonable behavior.” A true apology focuses on our behavior, and not on the other person’s response. (Lerner, CourageWorks.com https://www.courageworks.com/2017/02/harriet-lerner-qa)
Accountability: One of the key building blocks to TRUST – Here’s a checklist to help us see where we can do better.
- Are there actions or behaviors that I need to own and be accountable for?
- Do I have a tendency to avoid embarrassment? What can I do to keep this from getting in my way?
- Do I find myself making excuses on behalf of the team with whom I am working? Who do I need to talk to about this?
- How safe are my family members, friends, and co-workers to make themselves vulnerably accountable to me?
- Do I hold others accountable with respect and honesty?
- What relationships might benefit from more transparent accountability?
- What conversations do I want to have about this?
Lerner, Harriet https://www.courageworks.com/2017/02/harriet-lerner-qa