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Accountability of Self | Do The Hard Stuff

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

Our natural default as human beings is to avoid conflict at all costs. The reason for this is that it makes us feel uncomfortable and this goes against our natural wiring. Again, by default, God did not wire us to be creatures of conflict but of harmony. We like comfort and the “status-quo” and we tend to naturally gravitate away from things that rob us of either.

While we may look at some around us and think differently due to how they act, ultimately conflict is a learned behavior. Someone who likes to engage in conflict is, well, for lack a better term, a jerk. People don't like jerks and they definitely don't want to follow them so don’t be that person.

With all of that said however, conflict is unfortunately a part of life. We definitely cannot lead people effectively if we do not engage in accountability and with accountability comes conflict.

This is the point that it becomes incredibly important to fight against those natural urges to avoid conflict. Many times over my career I have seen teams and leaders undone simply because they refused to hold others accountable and engage in “hard conversations”.

In order to overcome this, we must first look internally and resolve the conflict within ourselves and make the conscious choice to address issues and step past our own discomfort. We must overcome the urge to avoid conflict and engage in good accountability of self.

While there are many ways we as humans “talk” ourselves out of taking action and avoid discomfort, here are some of the more common that we engage in when we don't want to do the hard stuff:

1. The "Ostrich Theory"

ostriches in the wild

Most of us have heard the saying, “Don’t stick your head in the sand like an Ostrich”. While this is a common saying, it is not true; Ostriches don't actually stick their hand in the head in the sand when they encounter danger.

You know what they do? They run away. They flee at the first sign of danger.

We have all seen or experienced this at some point in our lives: un-addressed issues fester on a team lowering both the morale and with it the productivity.

As issues continue to go on un-addressed and things progressively continue to deteriorate, all of the good people start leaving the team leaving behind those who are creating the issues and anyone else who is still deciding to suffer through them.

Finally, once the situation has become totally unbearable, and conflict inevitable, there is an emotional explosion. This is where the really nasty stuff happens and life goes from unbearable to nightmare. In the worst of cases, this is when violence enters the picture and lives are forever changed.

This is the ultimate horror story and conclusion to what I call the “Ostrich Theory”. Instead of addressing the conflict head-on and in a timely manner, we chose to “stick our head in the sand”, pretend it didn’t exist, and hope it would just go away.

Unfortunately, this approach rarely works and as we talked about above it can become the neutron bomb to any collaborative environment.

2. Be Strategic but Be Timely

One of the most sure-fire ways to assassinate your own credibility is to delay confrontation so long that your message is no longer relevant. Timeliness and relevance go hand-in-hand and when you lack good accountability of self and procrastinate, you ruin the message.

Attack issues head on and don't be passive. Don't put them off to the side or try to convince yourself you will tackle things later. Later has a funny way of turning into never and never is just another path to Ostrich-like outcomes.

I'm not saying you need to address every issue you encounter the very second it occurs, as sometimes you do need to be a bit measured in your response or think out your approach before you address things, however, don't wait too long to address issues.

Set a firm date that you are going to follow-up on whatever the issue is and stick to it.

Remember, like we spoke about earlier in the chapter, whatever you do, be it good or bad, is habit-forming. If you get into the habit of putting things off and procrastinating, that will become your new normal.

3. Don't Pass-The-Buck or Play The "Blame Game"

Another trick we as humans engage in is pawing off our responsibility onto others or play the “blame game”. This is especially prevalent when it comes to conflict.

When we operate under a “someone will address it” mindset, most of the time no-one does. Or, they do for a while but then stop when they see that they are the only ones that do. Either way, this is a self-destructive approach that results in the cascade of chaos that I outlined above.

Another common method that we as humans use to try to avoid conflict is by playing the “blame game.” Again, we as human beings are fragile and there is nothing more fragile than the human ego.

When you respond like Adam did in the Garden, you just torpedo your credibility with others. We are going to touch upon this much more in the next section but it is worth mentioning here as well.

There is a great speech that Sylvester Stallone gives in the movie Rocky Balboa that speaks to this perfectly. In the scene in question, he is speaking to his son who is complaining that it is hard for him to do anything for himself because of his famous father.

Rocky’s son has settled into a whiney session of the “blame game”. After listening carefully to his son rant, rave, and whine, he responds with one of the most memorable monologues that speaks to the weakness that comes from this approach you will ever hear:

Don’t play the “blame game”. Don’t wait for others to engage in conflict for you. Don't stick your head in the sand and pretend that the issues aren't there, and definitely don't run away. You need to address things head-on and have courage! Be willing to do the hard stuff because Like Rocky said, that is how you win. That's how you build good leaders and teams.

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