I spend a lot of time talking to teams and leaders about what accountability looks like on the organizational level – in the workplace. But it’s just as important to take a close look at accountability in our relationships with people outside of the workplace. In fact, I believe true accountability always starts at the level of the individual, not the level of the organization.
Let me share an example of what accountability on the individual level looks like in action. I have a dear friend name Mike Domitrz. Mike doesn’t live in St. Louis, so I don’t see him a lot face to face. But I’ve known him for years, I keep in touch with him regularly, and he is a powerful, enduring, and positive presence in my life.
Mike called me at the end of December and said, “Sam, I keep meaning to ask you, what’s your word for 2019? What one word are you going to make this year all about? What’s the compass point that you’re going to keep coming back to, day after day, no matter what happens?” He often reaches out like that.
As it happened, the word I had chosen for 2019, as my daily compass point, was gratitude. Mike and I started talking about gratitude: how important it is, the remarkable power it has to transform one’s perspective and one’s world, and why it made so much sense for me as a returning point of focus for the coming year.
Throughout this conversation, Mike was supportive, thoughtful, and insightful, asking all the right questions and making lots of relevant observations. The call went on for about half an hour. When we got off the line, I couldn’t stop thinking about what an important person Mike was in my life. I realized I wanted more of those kinds of conversations – and that I wanted to be there for Mike in the same way he had just been there for me.
That’s when I got to thinking about some other changes I wanted to make in 2019, based on the power of Mike’s personal example. For instance, I knew that I wanted to make a habit of prayer time and journaling time in the early morning, and I knew that this kind of morning practice was already part of Mike’s routine. The more I thought about it, the clearer it became that there was an idea I needed to suggest to Mike.
A couple of days later, I called Mike. I told him I wanted to start following his example of setting aside early-morning time for reflection and journaling. Then I suggested a mutual commitment that I thought would get 2019 off to a great start for each of us. What if we were to begin the day with some time to ourselves and some journaling … and then communicate with the other on a daily basis about how our morning time was going? What if we did a check-in call every morning for the following twenty-one days, so we could review what was working in our morning routine? What wasn’t? What we were noticing? What we had learned? What he had decided to change in our lives as a result of our prayer time and our journaling?
Mike instantly agreed. And the insights we have both gained from that process have been phenomenal.
In the popular vernacular, Mike is – and has been for about a decade – my “accountability partner.” And I am his. But I think we take that relationship a little deeper than it usually goes. I’ve had a lot of accountability partners over the years. But in my experience, there is no one quite like Mike. There is a certain special synergy in our relationship. It’s not really me “holding Mike accountable” or Mike “holding me accountable.” We inspire each other to follow through on our commitments to ourselves to grow, develop and learn. That’s how strong the relationship we’ve built is: It actually makes us want to be more accountable to our own best selves. That’s where the magic happens!
Mike’s commitment to be accountable to me, to support me becoming the best possible version of myself, makes me want to return the favor – and it also makes me want to live up to the high standard he has set for me. That kind of inspiration is what makes great things possible, not just in the workplace, but everywhere else in life.
I hope you have someone like Mike in your life – but more importantly, I hope you choose to be someone like Mike, in a relationship outside of the workplace. Do what Mike did: Reach out! Be accountable! Make a commitment to support someone’s becoming the best possible version of themselves! Inspire someone!