April 17, 2014

The Power of Accountability

I am about to completely expose myself and tell everyone reading this blog something very personal.  I am 37 years old, and I have a phobia of driving on highways.  It is a phobia that I have had since I began driving, and as a result, I have pretty much avoided highway driving for over twenty years.  This is something that has greatly affected my life, both personally and professionally.  I feel that I am not “fully grown up,” because I cannot drive by myself to see friends or relatives if it requires highway driving.  Luckily, I have a very understanding husband who is always willing to do the driving and go completely out of his way to make sure that I get to where I need to go if it’s to somewhere I can’t drive by myself.  From a professional standpoint, I have worked in the consulting industry for my whole career, an industry that most people associate with travel—pretty ironic, huh?  I started out at Accenture for nine years.  Luckily, I never had to travel and eventually transferred into their internal consulting department where travel/driving was not a requirement.  I have been at Kenway now for almost six years and, in the back of my mind, I stress about the “what if” of when I may have to drive to the suburbs for a client.  Whenever we have company meetings or other events that require highway driving, I have been able to successfully use the “we only have one car” excuse and get rides from colleagues.

I made up my mind that I am going to conquer my phobia of driving in 2014.  This is probably one of the biggest things I am ever going to accomplish in my life, and that’s coming from someone who won the Big Ten Medal of Honor (given to one student athlete at each Big Ten University for excellence in academics and athletics) at the University of Illinois and played #1 on a full college tennis scholarship! I knew this journey could not be done alone.  I have a lot of self-discipline, but this is something where I will need to have others help me out.  It would be way too easy to make excuses for not practicing driving.

So, I started with my husband.  He is fully supportive.  I also enlisted a counselor who specializes in this area, and I have started seeing her every other week.  And I told some of my closest friends.  That is where I was planning on stopping.

At Kenway, we are organized into smaller Theta Groups, where we meet on a monthly basis to brainstorm ideas, process issues, and share important company updates.  Goals of Theta groups are to foster innovation, build trust, and develop accountability.  Many people at my company are documenting their “roles, goals, and tactics” for 2014.  During one of our Theta meetings, one of our group members decided to share one of his professional goals and asked us to help hold him accountable.  I decided to then share my personal goal with this group (it was not something I had pre-meditated doing).  I think everyone’s jaws dropped when I told them, yet at the same time everyone was extremely encouraging and wanted me to provide an update at our next Theta meeting.  I left that meeting with feelings of both excitement and nervousness.  I am a Type-A personality and very driven (no pun intended), so when I put my mind to something, I have to do it.  I wanted to be able to report at the next Theta meeting that I had made progress, but I was also nervous that this would mean doing something of which I was scared to death.

Well, let me tell you about the power of accountability.  The very next morning, I drove on the highway for the first time in over 10 years!  And I didn’t just go one or two exits, I drove from Peterson Ave. in Chicago on I94 West to Lake St. in Glenview (for those from the area).  And I have never felt more proud.

I still have a looooong way to go, and I am taking baby steps.  But knowing that all these people are supportive of me, and that I am accountable to them, has made a huge difference.

Whether you have personal or professional goals, the power of accountability is amazing.  Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  For my professional roles, goals, and tactics, you can bet I am going to have people hold me accountable as well!

And well, since I have now shared this with thousands of people that read this blog, I have a lot more people to whom I am being held accountable.  Check out part 2 of this series!

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