It’s a Matter of Trust: Part Four


This is the fourth installment of a seven part series exploring the concept of trust, including how it pertains to the workplace. Read Part One, Part Two and Part Three now.

Accountability Adds Up to Trust

By Doug Turner

Next to integrity, personal accountability is probably the most powerful idea that underlies trust. If we are prepared to be accountable for everything that goes on around us, we don’t play the blame game—and others will notice that.1

It is much easier to trust someone who you believe is unlikely to strike back at you if something goes wrong. According to John Michalik, author of It Might Just All Be About Attitude, “One thing that exceptional leaders, and people that others point to as models or successes in life, tend to have in common is the ability not only to reach a personal level of ‘spiritual commitment’, but to forge a culture of trust, credibility, an ‘us, not them’ environment, and a bit of that same commitment in those who follow them and with whom they work.”2

Avoiding the Blame Game
It is important to distinguish here between “accountability”, “responsibility” and “blame.”3 They are often used interchangeably. If you have been assigned a task, you are therefore “responsible” for its completion. If it doesn’t get done, you can be accountable for the fact that it didn’t get done, but it is NOT necessary to assign blame. Assigning blame actually accomplishes nothing constructive.

There may have been circumstances you couldn’t control, resources you couldn’t get, other people who didn’t do their part, and so on—all of these would all be valid explanations for the task not being done. If, in the face of this adversity, you remain accountable for the task even though you are not to “blame,” people will notice. They will be more confident (trusting) that you will not pull the “blame trigger” when they fail to get something done, so long as they remain accountable. In other words, blame has no place in a relationship of trust, but accountability definitely does.

The well known author Jack Canfield, in his best-selling book The Success Principles—in which accountability is Success Principle #1—applies this concept to the ultimate degree.4 He says that, to be truly successful in your life you have to take 100 per cent accountability for everything that happens in your life.5 You have to give up all of your excuses and you can no longer blame anyone for things that don’t happen the way you’d like them to. It is important to note that this does NOT mean you blame yourself. You don’t blame anybody…not even yourself. Blame is not part of this picture at all. Accountability is, and this leads to greater self-trust, and less propensity to start finger-pointing. Again, people will notice this and the “trust machine” gets rolling.

Setting a Higher Standard
What this all comes down to is holding yourself to a higher standard. Set the bar high, let everybody know that you will not be happy with yourself, or them, unless you all remain accountable for what is going on around you. The level of trust that results from this kind of a “no blame, high expectation” environment is amazing.

Read Part Five—Want Trust? Tell it Like it Is—now.

Doug Turner is a leadership and executive coach at True Balance Coaching.

1. See Covey, supra note 8, at 120-21
2. John J. Michalik, It Might Just All Be About Attitude, 25 No. 3 ALA News 4 (2006).
3. See id., at 200-203
4. Jack Canfield (with Janet Switzer), The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be 3-18 (2005).
5. Id., at 3.

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