Accountability and Wellness Champions
Accountability, an important concept in workplace wellness, has three cornerstones: values, responsibility for aligning behaviors with values, and proactive determination. Let’s first use the analogy of home life to explain and then circle back later to explain accountability in workplace wellness.
Analogy of Keeping a Clean Home
Consider marriage partners or room-mates as regards household chores. But use your own situation to grasp this idea. We all want to be seen as someone who others can get along with. We value being seen as a good neighbor, a friend, and — in the case of marriage and room-mates — a respectful team player. As a result, we monitor our behaviors in a variety of categories: taking out the garbage, cleaning the sink, picking up unused items, clothes disposal, meal prep and washing.
This requires attention to many small behaviors that can become habits. The behaviors – like cleaning and pitching in — follow from values — like cleanliness, health, cooperation, hospitality, or even love. We all act for different reasons.
This example reveals a lot about accountability. First, it shows that values are important and more precisely, the structure of values. For example, I may value cleanliness, but I even more want to do things that will show I am a team player and am making an effort. The higher value of “team player” directs my behavior around cleaning.
Second, accountability also means paying attention to conditions and taking action when those conditions require help. We take responsibility for when things get untidy and dirty. If we value civic duty, we may even take responsibility for the mess that we did not even create…without saying anything. Yes, some of us can be noble!
Third, with strong accountability, we may go out of our way to proactively clean up problems before they come to our partner’s attention. Better to have positive conditions from the get go than to risk picking up after a mistake, being lax, or inattentive. This means we bring determination to the tasks of our lives.
When we look at accountability, we are talking about accountability to others, to the self, and to the environment we share with others. To review, the three guides that help are
- Knowing and acting on positive values
- Taking responsibility when we see things that do not fit with those values
- Showing determination, proactively setting up situations that manifest those values
Strong wellness champions seek to follow these guides. But there is more. Imagine you are someone who intrinsically values cleanliness. You don’t keep things tidy only out of respect or cooperation; rather, you enjoy cleanliness for cleanliness sake.
Ask yourself what you intrinsically value as a wellness champion. Consider:
- What is the value in being accountable to your wellness program?
- What is most important to you? health, well-being, resilience, a positive workplace, pleasing your boss, reducing healthcare costs, improving productivity, or improving your health. It is important for champions to have a clear sense of their intrinsic values.
In taking responsibility for the wellness program, know the difference between self-blame versus accountability. When colleagues don’t participate or take care of themselves, you may feel responsible or take it personally. It is natural to “take on” the issues of others. Instead, remind yourself of your program’s purpose and how your own value-based actions are making a contribution to your health and the health of others. By role modeling, the difference you make may seem small but it can have large ripple effects. When your values shine through your actions, you can have a big impact on those you are trying to reach.
Finally, there is the commitment or determination. This was highlighted in our Team Resilience challenge. Commitment is one of the basic C’s of resilience, along with community, compassion, and confidence. Full accountability means you keep at it, you persevere, you try and try again. And the main reason you would do that is because you are in touch with the first area; your values.