It is impossible to stop thinking about the terrible things that plague society. Whether it be pop culture or politics, it is difficult to avoid the disheartening stories that fill our news feeds. Like many other public servants, I am thinking of how I can better myself and those surrounding me, with the hope that we can be the change we want to see. Growing up, my parents were constantly reminding me to “be a leader and not a follower”—and it didn’t mean much initially. I mean…I get it. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean I should be doing it either.
By the time I became a student-athlete, that advice took on a new meaning. Eventually, it was my Coach saying, “Lead by example”—which took things to a new level. Not only am I separating myself from the foolish acts of other people, but I am also an influencer—who may have the potential to encourage someone to make better decisions.
Before we dive too far into this, I should mention that “leading by example” doesn’t only apply to the top person in an organization. Plenty of people in supportive roles have the potential to be influencers within their line of work. Needless to say, societal mores and controversial topics have been on my mind for some time, and I keep thinking to myself, how can we make things better?
How can I grow while making a positive impact on the community? I started thinking about the things that bother me, and how I’m tired of hearing repeatedly about the same problems. Many issues plaguing our communities are not new, and yet we seem to be getting nowhere…so what’s the deal? After a billion Facebook debates, and after reading a billion think pieces, where does this end? How can I take part in a solution that involves impactful action?
That’s when it hit me.
Many of the puzzles consuming my mind were missing this one word: Accountability. We have to start somewhere. I must first hold myself accountable, and I must practice it in every aspect of my life. Not only that… I need to be comfortable with holding others accountable—especially if it’s my responsibility to do so. In order to fully grasp this concept, I asked myself, what does accountability provide us?
Here’s what I came up with:
Accountability keeps us aware of our words and our actions. It holds us to a certain standard we believe is attainable—even if it makes us uncomfortable.
One of my closest friends is my accountability partner. He calls me every few weeks and asks me how I’m doing in all aspects: mentally, physically, and spiritually. He makes sure that he follows up on the things I tell him I’m working on. I would be lying if I said that I’ve never cringed as he’s asked for a status update. I cringe for one of two reasons:
- The journey is not as easy as I’d hoped, or
- I haven’t begun the journey because I’m very UNCOMFORTABLE.
Either way, I have someone in my corner encouraging me, and pushing me to be better than I was yesterday. Whether it be your personal or your professional life, you need someone who isn’t afraid to let you know when you’re slacking.
Accountability builds trust. It allows us to be transparent with one another.
Local government enthusiasts know that transparency is an important topic within public service, and cities are getting more creative in how they address it. Open Data portals have become a great tool for cities to share budgets, emergency service calls, and a variety of other things. It gives the public access to information that can help them decipher whether or not they believe the city is doing its job. Fostering an open relationship with the public is important, because informed citizens tend to be engaged citizens. Let’s be real for a minute…
…Community engagement is more effective when the citizens actually have an idea of what’s going on. I understand that it is easier said than done, but the point is, you have to start somewhere.
Accountability provides us with the tools we need to lead by example. By choosing to hold myself accountable first, I am then able to share my best practices, and be transparent about my experiences, in a way that can be influential to someone else.
I believe that accountability starts at home. What are you or your organization/business/city doing in-house to ensure you practice what you preach? People have expectations for other people, but they can’t live up to those same expectations. Odd right?
We’re in positions (local government) where we need people (those we serve) to hold us accountable. Most people don’t know where to begin, because they haven’t been equipped with the knowledge or resources. What better way to build a trustworthy relationship than to provide “accountability blueprint” for people who desire to create change? Instead of waiting for people to figure it out, or telling people what to do…why not try leading by example first?
…What does accountability mean to you?