Burrard Toastmasters
Vancouver's leading business-oriented public speaking club
Club Speeches

Personal Accountability

Winning speech, 2004-2005 Club International Speech Contest
By Ken Bell

You might not think that it's important - sick people sent home to die, sleeping people taken to the morgue.

Does it matter when you ask for help, only to be told "that's not my department."

Who cares that our elected officials waste billions of your dollars through accounting oversight, poor planning, or outright kickbacks?

How many times has the dog eaten the homework? "I couldn't do it because so-and-so did this"?

These are all symptoms of a pervasive influence in our society - a profound lack of personal accountability. It is sinister and erodes the quality of life. It wastes your time, burns your money, and destroys your soul.

Fortunately, we can do something about it, individually and as a group.

The first thing we can do is to make a personal commitment to being accountable, to ourselves and others. This involves two actions:

  1. Stop looking for excuses. Get them out of your life.
  2. Do what you say you are going to do. If you don't intend to do it by the time stated, say no.

Now, we are all human, and we err. For example, I promised Malcolm I would find a manual for him, which I didn't do. I could offer the excuse that I was working on the contest materials, which has the added effect of being believable, and leave it at that. But I know within my heart that I failed to keep my word. Therefore the response is "Malcolm, I promised to do this but I didn't. Accept my apologies." And Malcolm will, because he's a great guy, and overlooks the occasional transgression. And I learn, the hard way, not to make a promise I can't keep.

If you adopt this mindset of personal accountability for your actions, you will gradually find yourself more inspired and increasingly action-oriented. You will accomplish more, and have more fun doing it. You will be doing what you choose to do.

The second thing is to share this bounty with others by asking them to be personally accountable. If it's not their department, ask whose it is.

Explain that the result is important, not the quality of the excuse. You are not interested in who to blame. Blame is lame.

In placing your request, ask who will do what by when. Can the action be done now, quickly and easily, instead of languishing on a To-Do list?

As your friends and colleagues start delivering, they feel better about themselves. They did what they said they were going to do.

We don't like to consider ourselves cogs in the machine, but we are cogs, in a giant machine. Imagine one cog not turning, and how that prevents other cogs from turning, and so on outward through the machine. We are all diminished somewhat every time we accept an excuse. We owe it to ourselves to always ask for the best from ourselves and others. We have a collective responsibility to keep every cog turning.

If we do this, we will be happier, more fulfilled, and we will all make more money. Our honor will be restored, because we will be keeping our word.

This is a powerful tonic for a sick and rotten society whose mores are shaped sitcoms. Does not every sitcom begin with a lie, to excuse some behaviour that you or I could face up to? And they lie and they lie and make excuses. In the end they get caught and all they have done is waste everyone's time.

You can't wait, because it is your precious seconds being frittered away. It is your hard-earned dollars being squandered.

Demand to count for something. Then expect the same from others.

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