3/3/22: The role of perspective in developing accountability

Sent 3/3/22


This week's Think Better Newsletter is about teasing out the relationship between perspective and accountability. 

The Idea

Last week's newsletter highlighted the difference between responsibility and accountability. It's an important distinction for understanding why there are Five Stages of Responsibility. I argued that you can't be accountable until you have the knowledge, experience, and maturity to truly own your results.

The below diagram represents the five stages and how they are measured. You'll see that stage 2 is Responsibility for Execution. Given that this is what we ask most of our athletes, it may seem odd that it is so low in the progression.

The Five Stages of Responsibility

This makes more sense when you think of each stage as corresponding to a timeframe or set of variables.

Responsibility for Execution is actually responsibility for doing the tasks you need to do today, in this moment. It has a very limited scope, but a much higher degree of control. It's the most important, but the focus is narrow.

Responsibility for Evaluation is backward looking. And you can go as far back in time as makes sense. This greatly expands the scope, but keeps it to fixed experiences and outcomes. 

Responsibility for Planning is forward looking. It requires us to apply what we know of our past and present to project a future outcome. The number of future possibilities expands greatly, as does the expertise required to navigate them. Again the scope expands.

Responsibility within the Momentum Model

Two of these can (and often should) be delegated. A coach is an expert at evaluation and planning. Delegating these allows the athlete to focus on the one area that can't be delegated: execution.

For an athlete to master their formal training program, they need to understand how their past led them to the present and they need to understand how their current actions affect the path they are on. Gaining this perspective takes time.

The System

I received an email from a coach after last week's newsletter. He once attended a talk by a very successful collegiate softball coach, who said she asked only that her athletes be responsible, not accountable.

This may surprise you, but I agree with this.

I think of responsibility and accountability not as actions, but as mindsets. The former focuses on executing tasks the right way. The latter emphasizes owning the results.

Coaches must ask their athletes to be responsible. In the beginning, this will simply mean executing the practices well. Over time it may include evaluation or planning activities, as athletes show the ability to do them.

Accountability, however, has to come from the athlete. We can guide them to it, but it has to come from inside. Demanding that an athlete be accountable for their results can be paralyzing. An athlete deciding to be accountable can be empowering.

So to simplify my position: if you're a coach, demand responsibility and lead to accountability; if you're an athlete, be responsible and aspire to accountability.

The Question

Are you actively engaging in a way that gains perspective?


Go Be More,

Bryan Green
Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast
Co-host of the Fueling the Pursuit Podcast

“Responsibility is a unique concept... You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. You may delegate it, but it is still with you.
― Hyman G. Rickover



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