Accountability and Trust


Being accountable, holding others accountable, and clarity of actions occur as breakdowns for several reasons. There is often a lack of a uniform set of cultural standards and practices. While there is a consistent desire to do “a good job,” how to achieve this and having the necessary personal skills is often lacking. The gears and practices of good action are so normal for us that they are often overlooked. No one doesn’t know how to make a request, but few are imbued with the wisdom of the intricacies of request, offers, and promises where all possibilities get covered. Even when all the parts are known intellectually, people can run into themselves in the execution.

Even at the leadership level in organizations, it is frequent that I hear, “Well, it’s just quicker and easier if I just do it myself.” It often stems from the unwillingness to hold others accountable as the conversations could become heated and contentious. There are also the breakdowns of lack of learning from mistakes, lack of feedback, and, well, is there really time to do my job and someone else’s? These are issues of the Self, an historical shaping that makes these actions hard or impossible for some individuals to take.

The accountability breakdown can be solved by putting into place a set of practices relating to the daily activities of human coordination:

• Clarity of request before asking
• Clarity of what is being asked by both requestor and promisor
• Making clear promises
• Declaring completion
• Assessing and declaring satisfaction or dissatisfaction

Done well, this remedies the majority of the breakdowns of accountability, holding others accountable, and clarity of action. Personal skills that often require improvement can include:

• Willingness to commit to timelines and manage commitments
• Personal clarity – asking questions, negotiating outcomes
• The ability to be in courageous conversation
• The ability to say “no” and to accept a “no”
• Honoring competency and capacity, mine and others

When teams adopt and embody these practices, efficiency, effectiveness, satisfaction, and engagement will increase. Done well, trust between team members increases significantly.


Building trust with others is a skill. It is powerful to acknowledge and attend to embodied tendencies and be choiceful about how we want to be seen and assessed. What identity do we purposefully want to create both inside of and outside of our relationships related to having others trust us?

From our shaping, we will be more or less inclined to extend trust or limit trust. There is no right or wrong about this, and one of the values of knowing ourselves is to know this leaning. The knowing offers choice. When deciding trustworthy, we can use the skill of assessing and grounding our assessment in observable actions related to sincerity, reliability and competency.

Trust is intricately connected to safety. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety is a basic human need. Everyone, even if not on our conscious radar, seeks safety. If we bend to the will of our historical shaping, we are likely to fall to one end of the safety spectrum or the other. On one end, there must be proof of trustworthiness. Either trusting people or circumstances is difficult, as life experience leans more towards life (and people) are not safe. One’s radar is up and looking for ways and excuses NOT to trust, because obviously, the world is not trustworthy, look what it did to me! Originating from a basic need, this runs deep and is not exorcised easily. Whether or not something is safe or not, is not a truth, it is an assessment (interpretation) of what is going on. It may be easy for us to assess that a person with a gun is not safe. For some, when that person is a policeman, they will assess safety, or they may assess danger. The circumstance is the same, but the viewer will interpret through their experiences. The truth of the circumstance can be argued.
The opposite end of the trust spectrum is over-trusting. Everybody’s cool. Trust will happen until it is revealed as missing.