‘Conscious Accountability’ Is a New Idea Proposed by 3 Psychologists Affiliated With Yale

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on December 5, 2022

Accountability is much revered in the abstract but in practice it is often thought of as being required to answer to or justify your actions to someone in power. Now three Yale University psychologists, David C. Tate of the Yale School of Medicine; Marianne Pantalon, co-founder and COO of the Center for Progressive Recovery and a senior facilitator at the Interpersonal and Group Dynamics Program at Yale University School of Management; and Daryn David, a licensed clinical psychologist and Associate Research Scientist at the Yale School of Medicine, are proposing an upgrade to “conscious accountability.”

Conscious accountability, they argue, elevates the traditional idea of accountability into something far less transactional and product-driven approach. Their recent book, Conscious Accountability: Deepen Connections, Elevate Results, advocates for accountability that recognizes the value of attending to relationships as crucial for achieving success.

Conscious accountability is less transactional and more transformational than traditional notions of accountability. It encourages doing right by ourselves and others, and results in greater job satisfaction, elevated relationships, and better business outcomes. They contend that engaging in conscious accountability optimizes personal, interpersonal, and team effectiveness.

We asked them about conscious accountability and what it might mean for the future of management and organizational culture.

Your book is pretty skeptical of what you refer to as “traditional notions of accountability.” What are the shortcomings in how people think of accountability?

People often view accountability as all about actions and results, like being accountable for completing a task or producing some outcome. This laser focus on results can come at the exclusion of relationships and the impact we are having on ourselves and others. This runs the risk of burning people out, and lowering team engagement and morale.

In addition, accountability is often considered as something that is ultimately about individual responsibility. But this can lead to a myopic ”that’s not my job” perspective–such that people lose sight of how they can help achieve the larger collective goal by supporting others.

Accountability is often invoked when errors, mistakes, and problems occur: “who should be held accountable?” This leads to a backward facing and fear based accountability, which encourages people to avoid (rather than assume) responsibility.

What do you mean by “conscious accountability”? How is that different from the general ideal of accountability?

Conscious accountability means expanding awareness to create deliberate intentions, take informed actions, and be responsible for your impact.

The general idea of accountability is different, in that it focuses on being answerable to others, or responsible for something. Conscious accountability goes further in that it offers guidance on ways we can think and behave with others as we carry that responsibility.

What is the connection between conscious accountability and social awareness? Is this as simple as paying attention to other people?

Conscious accountability is about both self awareness and social awareness. That involves being more aware of yourself, of others, and the interdependencies that exist between you and different individuals or groups. It means really appreciating how your actions and inactions have direct and indirect effects on others. With greater awareness, we can anticipate and respond to the needs of others and ourselves more effectively. Ultimately, this allows us to close the gap between our intentions and our impact.

Doesn’t accountability require a supportive culture that tolerates and tries to learn from honest mistakes? Otherwise, accountability sounds like just volunteering to be the fall guy.

Yes. Conscious accountability is essentially a learning culture – one that creates a virtuous cycle of growth and improvement by learning through experience. In order for that to happen, we need to ensure that there is an atmosphere of psychological safety, wherein people feel comfortable being vulnerable. That opens up a deeper level of engagement, where people can share different perspectives and admit and learn from mistakes.

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Peter Page is an Editor-at-Large at Grit Daily. He is available to record live, old-school style interviews via Zoom, and run them at Grit Daily and Apple News, or BlockTelegraph for a fee.Formerly at Entrepreneur.com, he began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter long before print journalism had even heard of the internet, much less realized it would demolish the industry. The years he worked as a police reporter are a big influence on his world view to this day. Page has some degree of expertise in environmental policy, the energy economy, ecosystem dynamics, the anthropology of urban gangs, the workings of civil and criminal courts, politics, the machinations of government, and the art of crystallizing thought in writing.

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