Clicking the keys furiously, I was determined to finish a project before the session ended. Headphones in, glasses on, multiple beverages next to me: I was in deep focus work.
I avoid getting into focus work. My personality structure doesn’t like the discomfort of focus. WHAT IF I’M MISSING SOMETHING MORE FUN? And yet focus work brings the most joy and creativity.
So, I found some accountability. While my fingers were flying over the keyboard, I was on a zoom with five other people working on their own goals. And I knew at the end of 90 minutes, I was going to share how far I had progressed toward my goal. No tangible rewards or punishments. Simple accountability.
Accountability elicits strong reactions. I asked on my Insta stories and among all the answers came side by side: “failure” and “successful.” Wow…quite the difference there.
Here’s what I’ve discovered about accountability (and research studies agree with): Accountability motivates change. Accountability supports responsibility. Accountability increases success.
True accountability is not a gotcha or micromanaging. Accountability puts the responsibility on the correct party and supports you in reaching your goals. Ultimately, when done well, accountability enhances your skills and improves your confidence. And in the workplace, it produces the same benefits for your team.
Accountability puts the responsibility on the correct party and supports you in reaching your goals.
Remember those STRONG reactions? Those often come from our core motivations…which if you’ve been with me for a minute, you know are revealed through the Enneagram. Each type has a particular lock for accountability, and the Enneagram is a key to help you build healthy accountability systems for yourself and trust with your team.
Here are some quick tips to help each Enneagram type embrace and practice healthy accountability.
Release the idea that accountability is micromanaging. You are a high responsibility person. Accountability helps you achieve that.
Working with an Eight? Ask them to develop their own accountability measures and timelines. Simply follow through on their plan.
Accountability is not conflict. It actually increases connection and supports you keeping your commitments to yourself and others.
Working with a Nine? Start very small accountability. More frequent check-ins and coaching support with a nine to prioritize tasks and follow through on completion.
Be open to the idea that accountability is part of serenity. I know it feels like you’ve done something wrong, but that’s your Inner Critic telling lies. Accountability is controlling the things you can, not all the things.
Working with a One? Ones are great for self-accountability. Give them positive encouragement toward their goals. If you need to offer more course correction accountability, do it privately and with tangible outcomes so they can see the success and check it off the list.
Accountability helps you see your own needs. You have a narrative that says you have to help everyone else, so you over-respond to others and under-respond to yourself. Accountability brings responsibility back into balance.
Working with a Two? Start with praise and appreciation for their work. Two respond well when they know the relationship is still intact. Make accountability part of ongoing conversation, not simply a “we need to talk.” Appreciate their progress and connect their personal accountability to the success of others as well as themselves.
Accountability is part of success. And it’s definitely not failure! See accountability as the support you need to achieve your goals, not a hindrance to them. Often your accountability will be to not do it all…
Working with a Three? Remind them they have worth completely outside of their accomplishments. You’re here to support them to achieve goals, not point out failures. Threes do love gold stars and progress checks, so ask them what would make them feel successful in the process.
Accountability is not restriction. Release the hyperbolic language that stirs up drama in your heart about accountability. Accountability is actually someone seeing you and caring about you.
Working with a Four? Fours under-respond to compliments and have trouble internalizing the good things about themselves. Outside data is important in accountability. Create clear measures of outcomes. Then you can share that accountability is working not just because you say so, but look at this good outcome. Then help the Four feel that growth. Help them choose accountability that is aligned to their values, not just work product.
Accountability is part of being a competent human. Remember that an accountability plan is not accountability actions. Also, accountability helps you overcome the fear of depletion so you avoid action and move to managing your energy in ways that don’t deplete you but actually energize you.
Working with a Five? Fives often appear underresponsive to responsibility. They need more time to make informed decisions and create plans. Also, fives often don’t feel ready to act. Support a five in accountability by coming back to these questions: 1) What is the action step? 2) When will that happen?
Accountability can go two ways for you. At times you may welcome it as a way to have someone else be responsible for decisions. At other times, you may resist it because it feels like blame. Try a new story: accountability helps you prepare and take responsibility for just what is yours and not what is others’.
Working with a Six? They tend to have an intense response to most things. When helping with accountability, help them see it’s not all on them. They are not responsible for everything. This means accountability needs to be very specific to their actions. Great results with Sixes often come with process accountability, not just outcomes.
Accountability feels like limitation. And in some ways it is. But accountability serves as an accelerant to get what you really want. So it’s specific limitation for ultimately more freedom. Also, the anticipation of accountability is always more challenging than actual accountability.
Working with a Seven? Find out where the ultimate goal is. The big brainstorm ideas and visions. Then help the Seven break that down into smaller goals and ultimately small next steps. Sevens do well when there is some flexibility in the accountability and they lead the process. Also, encourage rewards for finishing steps.
These tips are like a skeleton key to help you understand yourself and your people. You need to consider your current circumstance, your resources, and your goals in addition to the Enneagram motivations that show up. I know this will help you find the accountability structures that work for you and your team.