Moving to Accountable Action (Part II)- Execution

Last time we presented a model and some theoretical background for the victim
versus accountable mindset
. Our hope is that you gained some insights on how
we move from the victim mindset to the accountable frame of mind and how that
movement can enhance business effectiveness.

Chris Argyris, professor emeritus of Harvard, first voiced the need for two simple
components for effective change in organizations: Having a good theory, then
taking action. I, and many others, have tested his premise many times and
always found it to be true: the best and most effective way to move forward is to

  • have a qualified idea set or method that you think will work
  • take action
  • observe behaviors
  • track and measure results
  • refine your actions based on the evidence

We established the model in our last article for moving effectively from being a
victim to becoming accountable. Now we need to examine how to make that
model both actionable and effective.

A MAPT is the model we have found invaluable in moving from the victim space
to the accountable space. You create “a map” and then test the map to see if it
takes you where you want to go. A MAPT stands for

  • Assess
  • Mindset or Perspective
  • Action or Decision
  • Practice
  • Test

Following this approach, first with myself, and then with coaching clients, has
proved consistently and predictably to produce quality results. While using this
approach does not guarantee permanent transformation, it does help to break
the gravitational pull of victimization and help us stay focused on remaining
accountable. Being accountable most often takes two forms:

• being aware, ahead of time, what you need to do and then doing it or,
• taking action, observing the outcome and revising our behavior as needed

Let’s look at the accountable model in more detail.

I’m powerless and there’s nothing I can do about it.” The biggest challenge with the victim mindset is that we don’t usually know we have it. It is out of sight.

For example:

  • We think that the other person ran into us with their car and it isn’t fair
  • We think that someone else got a bigger raise and it isn’t fair
  • We think that my staff is not productive because they are lazy

These are some of the typical stories that victims tell themselves.

In the victim mindset we rarely notice that we were distracted before the
argument, or that we did not really do very good work on the project, or that we did not set clear expectations with our staff. We were probably not aware at how our state of mind or the conclusions we drew got in the way of our making better and more effective decisions.

The first step in moving from being a victim to becoming accountable is in working to gain insight or perspective. This may take the form of checking my perspective or point of view and assessing its accuracy or validity. I need to ask myself: What do I assume to be true about a particular situation? and recognize that this mindset will probably effect the outcome. It’s helpful to bear in mind this statement about the impact of assumptions when something is not working well. For example: I’ve had conflict with someone or there is a disappointing outcome. I may experience pain or frustration; having an accountable mindset will motivate me to do something differently. To gain the needed insight I need to check my assumptions and see how they affect my behavior. This exercise allows us to see and understand how the victim mindset contributes to the unwanted outcome.

The model below is useful in seeing the path from being a victim to becoming
accountable. We have charted the pathway we have found most useful in moving from victim to accountable. The chart is drawn intentionally in a counter clockwise direction. Why? Because to change the path from victim to accountable requires a new way of thinking. The chart says: When we are in the victim mindset (and all of us are,at times) we must stop, and intentionally and by design, think and act in a new and more productive fashion.

  • The focus emanates from the individual who asks, “What did I do that is causing me to be stuck or having difficulties?
  • The process requires that I take full responsibility for my discomfort, articulate my “contribution,” and then ask, “What do I need to do to get out of the middle of the circle?”
  • The new thinking, “What did I do?” is the first step in my recognizing my part in
    the problem. This step essentially stops the blame game. We acknowledge there
    is a problem and we are at least a part of it.
  • The transition, suggests that I use my creativity to begin thinking differently.
  • The new action takes me off the “hamster wheel” and into new behaviors
    which may yield different outcomesThe Process of Change

Step 1 Assess → Gain Clarity about the Issue, Define the Problem

What’s the problem? For example: “Mary and I don’t work well anymore. She
is a pain to work with. Boy, I wish Frank (who used to have the job) was still

  • This might be my first level assessment in the victim mindset.

When I examine the consequences I discover: It’s costing us time at work, it
makes others uncomfortable. It seems that she is more focused on people
issues now and I am more focused on the financials and am uncomfortable
with our relationship. I notice I am tense and frustrated, and often focus on all
the things that she is doing that keep us from moving ahead.

Step 2 → Mindset or Perspective

In step two, we need to take a fresh look at our current situation. We need to
express the perceptions that exist and evaluate their impacts. In particular, we
need to identify the assumptions we have made and the conclusions we have
drawn. Most importantly we need to ask, “What have I done to contribute to this
difficulty, impasse, misunderstanding or problem?

Breaking out of the mindset at this stage is the key to moving from being a victim
to becoming accountable
. If we do not take this step we will not move ahead. My
colleague, Nick Ray, describes the prerequisite for gaining a foothold in this
stage as having an active interest in changing and an inner acknowledgment that
courage is required to move out of the old way of thinking.

This is the place where we often need the help of others to “get out of the box”
we have created. Usually, we stay stuck as victim because we:

  • want to be right
  • because we think we are right
  • because it is easier and more comfortable to be the victim or
  • because we are unaware of being in the victim mindset
  • do not see other options

Remaining the victim allows me to maintain the status quo. This is the most
important place in the cycle. It requires concerted effort to reverse the energy
flow, facilitating movement to an accountability mode and higher level functioning.

The most powerful questions to ask now are:

  • What’s important?
  • What’s my purpose?
  • What’s my bottom line?

We need to surface and articulate our assumptions about what we believe to be
true, and then test them for validity and accuracy. Are my assumptions really
true- or are they simply one way of looking at the situation? The first step in
moving towards new action is gaining a change in perspective. Some useful tools

  • Practice self observation and increased awareness- Using the
    concepts from the previous article you can make the conscious decision
    to notice when you are acting like a victim or find yourself on the hamster
    wheel. To create impact, ask yourself, “What does an accountable
    perspective look like?”
    For example, I may have noticed that I don’t
    consistently value Mary’s contributions.
  • Get feedback from others in your environment- Let those you trust
    know that you are working to improve yourself and ask them for feedback
    on your progress. For example, you might learn that they’ve observed
    that you’ve started taking Mary for granted.
  • Get feedback from a coach- Choose to work with an objective
    professional who can assist you in changing your perspective so that you
    function better. In working with a coach you might discover your real
    attitude about Mary. This insight might lead you to change your behavior
    towards her and the entire business situation.
  • Use additional tools for gaining perspective or insight including
    meditation, therapy, asking others for help, and self help literature.

Step 3 → Action or Decision- Make a decision to do something different
and commit to taking action. Set goals and determine measures.

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done takes us directly into the field of
action. Allen suggests that to be efficient and productive, taking action, we
need to attain a “mind like water.” By taking the first two steps, which are
assessing the situation and defining the problem we can begin to see our
situation more clearly and to explore new actions that lead to more positive

We have found that the move to accountability is supported by being simple
and making choices. One to two (1-2) important new actions are all that most
people, even our victim overachievers from the first article, can manage
successfully. Select one to two new actions, then create goals and determine
how to measure success. To make certain you are making informed choices
review your answers to the key questions from step 2:

  • What’s important?
  • What’s my purpose?
  • What’s my bottom line?

To cultivate accountability, we need something or someone to whom we will
be accountable: public accountability is empowering. Good thoughts are a
precursor to success but not usually sufficient to help us move ahead
successfully. Creating a way to track accountability creates an actionable plan
that documents what we are doing in the real world. The map requires:

  • Making informed choices about what to work on
  • Creating measurable goals
  • Implementing a system for ensuring accountability

In moving from victim to accountable we are following the path of

  • Victim → Apply Attention and Focus→ Accountable
  • Victim → Explore Possibilities → Accountable
  • Victim → Make Plans for Change and then Practice → Accountable

Step 4 → Practice

In this stage we try on new ways of functioning and evaluate
their effectiveness. We can consider practice as a trial and error process where
we actively look for new ways to deal with our own mindset.

Practice is the first real step into the new world and it is where we will require the
most active support. We will succeed and we will fail. Just like any beta test for a
product or new way of delivering service this requires a trial and error process.
Talent is helpful but practice is essential.

Step 5- Test → Measure Actual Results, Revise

The single most important discipline in getting things done is review, according to
productivity consultant Marc Orchant. This is the phase where we discover if we
are actually making a difference, acting accountably and diminishing our
victimization. This is business in action.


We measure our results. We see if we are achieving our goals or not. We make
adjustments or refinements to our actions. We act like accountable adults. It is
not easy or comfortable but is does permit us to take right action and most report
the experience as ultimately more satisfying.

In The Power of Personal Accountability Mark Samuel aptly describes the stance
of a victim as, “Why Me?” A victim focuses his time on hiding and denying, a
person of accountability focuses their time and attention on owning, forgiving and
taking action. How much longer do you have to choose? Someone will leave you
or the marketplace will eat you alive if you don’t change.

For myself, I have discovered that choosing the path of accountability brings
greater internal satisfaction and puts me in a place of power. Not control or
controlling others from not doing, but the power to create, to impact and craft the
world in the way that I want it. For me and many of my clients that seems to be
the main attraction and lure. As a leader it is also the carrot to be offered to
many followers who want to contribute, who want to have impact and who want
to make a difference. If you act accountably, you gain power.

I am the biggest barrier I have found to seeing other people and situations
accurately. Often, I simply deceive myself about what’s true because I don’t know
or don’t see. On the path to becoming accountable, it is necessary to employ
some new tools, do hard work, act with courage and enlist the help of others to
help you see that to which you are blind. Are you ready?

Note: A PDF version of this entire article can be found in the Books and Articles Section of the Resources in Action site.

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