“While it doesn’t sound too exciting, I believe happiness is being 100% accountable for your life.”


Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

I couldn’t agree more. Being accountable is taking 100% responsibility for your relationships, your motivation, how much you get done, and how passionate you are about your life. It’s taking ownership for living from purpose and values and building trust no matter what. When you lack accountability, you suffer. You feel disempowered, victimized and resentful because you are opting to be so.

In my work, I repeatedly emphasize to leaders (whether executives, managers, and supervisors or parents and teachers) that your greatest responsibility is to transfer responsibility to others until they consistently manage their relationships, productivity and engagement. I tell them their job is to stop managing others and teach them “to fish” instead. This is much more challenging than managing, motivating and evaluating people. This requires they demonstrate accountable behavior themselves, and then help others do the same with effective systems and tools.

One way I teach this is through a tool called the thermometer. We often think that just because we are doing our best to communicate, messages we are sending are effective and respectful. For numerous reasons, we don’t often want to take immediate notice or responsibility for what occurs in each exchange. The best indicator to help people determine the quality of their communications and their ability to influence effectively, is right in front of them. They don’t need a 360 or even words.

Feedback is always present in the results and in the face and behavior of the other person. It’s in the responses we get from others that we can either choose to pay close attention to, or ignore. When using the thermometer tool, a person considers each communication they offer and only receives minimal feedback in the form of a person moving backward, forward or not at all on a simulated thermometer. When they influence a person to move towards them, they have succeeded in influencing cooperation.What’s so interesting is how quickly people try to give up if they don’t get instant success and how reluctant they are to remain curious, and consider, “Hmm… I wonder how I just got that result…” regardless of if it is negative, neutral or positive. They want to lean on the other person instead.

I teach leaders to mentor their staff every month and I encourage them to help employees quickly identify needs for improvement and then select specific tools to effectively communicate, redirect negative behavior and get things done. Where the rubber hits the road is in reminding their people that executing these skills is not dependent on any other person’s commitment. The number one thing they hear is, “But what if he doesn’t care? What if she doesn’t want to do this tool with me?” I encourage managers to remind them: “That’s not your responsibility or business. Yours is staying committed no matter what the commitment of others.”

When this transfer of responsibility is done effectively and consistently by leaders, everyone experiences happiness commensurate to accountability. The job of good leaders is to adopt and support systems that foster self-directedness and personal responsibility. As you grow your company (or your family or self), if you want to experience and promote happiness, a necessary precursor to widespread and far-reaching success (that does follow), is to make proactive, nurturing support of accountability your number one goal and commitment. I am here to help if you need my support. We are experiencing contentious times.

Now, more than ever, we need to have practical applications of mutual trust and respect. Call me at 314.239.4727 if you want help creating conditions that bring out the best in people. You can also email me at judy@lifeworksystems.com.

Business owners, community leaders and educators hire Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace. Judy’s book, “What’s the Deal With Workplace Culture Change? is available FREE at www.GetMyCultureBook.com. For Judy’s training specials, go to www.GetMyTrainingSpecials.com

This article was published in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, July 2016