The Problem With Accountability

I was reading a Facebook thread where someone proudly announced, “I’ve thrown away my bathroom scales!  I’m no longer going to weigh myself. I feel better letting my feeling and intuition tell me when I’ve had enough food.” It sounded to me like a problem with accountability–something many of us can relate to.

The author of the post was supported by other women struggling with body image issues and societal pressures they experience when they see images of airbrushed models in magazines and movie stars on the red carpet. (Another woman announced that she took away her mirror so she wouldn’t see the big belly and cellulite every morning.)

Reality Check:  The scales and mirror are not the enemy. The scales and the mirror are simply tools of accountability.  When used correctly the tool tells you where you are in relationship to where you want to be. The problem is not the information the scale gives you, it’s the meaning you create from the information. That’s when accountability becomes a problem– we use accountability as a judge instead of a witness; a whipping stick instead of a ruler. I speak about this in depth in No-Drama Leadership where I devoted an entire chapter to accountability.

The Real Enemy: The Voice Inside Your Head

The real enemy is not the tools we use for accountability. The real enemy is the voice inside the head–that inner dialogue and self-talk that creates meaning. The invisible inner communication always manifests into the spoken word, and the spoken word into decisions and actions. The decision to avoid or to deny is based on a desire for short-term peace,  at the risk of an unwanted long-term result. The paradox is that whatever you avoid will expand and get your attention later. In other words you can become aware through choice or through circumstances.

In our personal lives we avoid the scales and the mirror. In business we avoid the financials, we avoid performance reviews, and we avoid the feedback on our products and service. We do so because we don’t know how to master the emotional and mental energy when we get information that doesn’t “feel” good.

Avoidance can work short term, but there’s a problem with long-term avoidance: You weigh what you weigh whether you know it or not. You look how you look whether you accept it or not. People either approve of you or they don’t without your permission.

The real problem is that we confuse accountability with judgment, and we confuse opinion with truth.

Marlene Chism is an executive educator, consultant, and author of Stop Workplace Drama, (Wiley 2011) and No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015). She works with executives, and high-performing leaders who want to transform culture in the workplace. To explore opportunities please email