Accountability (Put Your Oxygen Mask on First Before Helping Your Children with Theirs)

Accountability: it sounds so simple:  Do what you say you’re going to do.  And we will generally do whatever it takes to “get it done” for our clients.

  • Need to stay up until 2am getting a proposal ready that you promised to have first thing in the morning?  No problem.
  • Have to spend an extra hour learning a new computer trick to solve a problem?  Consider it done.
  • Set the alarm half an hour earlier in order to meet with a new prospect at her convenience?  Of course!

But when it comes to holding ourselves accountable to complete tasks necessary for growing our own business, we’re usually not quite as dedicated to the cause.  We allow things that we know are important to our business to drift down the “to do” list.  It’s not that we don’t think they are important—we all know they are.  But client fires have to come first.  Then there are family obligations.  And staying current in our industry.  And checking email.  And balancing the checkbook.  And, and, and.  The list of things for a small business owner to do is endless.

Have you ever made an agreement with a colleague that you’ll each get something done before the next time you meet?  This is a great attempt at accountability.  All too often however we go to that meeting with a sheepish grin saying, “I was going to try to cram the task in today before I came to meet you…”  The task still looms, waiting to be done, you feel mildly guilty about not having gotten to it, and the real damage is that your business didn’t receive the attention it deserves.

Take a lesson from the airline industry.  At the beginning of every flight, the attendant demonstrates the seat belt operation and then goes on to explain about the oxygen bags.  No matter what the exact spiel, the gist of the message is put on your own mask before attending to your child.  For those of us who are parents, this feels somewhat counter intuitive, right?  All our parenting genes scream, “take care of the kids—I’ll tough it out for a few minutes!”  Of course, the airlines are right—we are in a much better position to help our children when we are breathing calmly and safely.

So too are you in a better position to help your clients and your family when your business is breathing calmly and safely.  There are things that you have to do to be successful that may not be fun or easy for you, but are no less the oxygen that will allow your business to continue to breathe. 

Find an accountability system that works for you and stick to it no matter what.

Judi Cogen is a principal at J Grace Consulting You can follow her on twitter at email her at


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2 Responses to “Accountability (Put Your Oxygen Mask on First Before Helping Your Children with Theirs)”

  1. James R Sutter Says:

    Accountability, self discipline, follow-thru, The Devils in the Details… Boy you hit the nail on the head that accountability is so vital. For lone rangers like me, I gravitate to my comfort zones and tend to fall into bad habits of spending too much time on education, networking??, etc. The most accountable objectives are the ones for me are, “Get her in, Get it done, And Get her out,” because I’ve got to be accountable for those in order to get paid and keep the lights on. Thx. for the comments.

  2. Monday Musings: Let’s Start At ‘Go’ « You Can Do It Girl Says:

    […] my health, happiness, and household were in. Accountability…or as another blog put it “Put Your Oxygen Mask on First Before Helping Your Children with Theirs” seemed to be the exact slap in the face I […]

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