Krawczak: Communication and accountability

In the communication class I teach, we spend some time talking about where the meaning of communication lies. Is it with the sender of communication (me as the author of this column, for example), or is it with the receiver of communication (you as the reader, for example)?

We discuss the different answers and ultimately the class comes up with the correct answer – that the meaning of communication lies with the receiver. The sender can do her very best to convey the message she wants to convey, but the receiver ultimately understands the message in his own way. Understanding is based on a number of factors – outside influences, mood, timing, and circumstances. Clearly there is value to understanding this concept. We can adjust our communication in ways that will make it easier for the receiver to understand the message in the way that we intend it to be understood.

I was thinking recently of my favorite things about working for a chamber of commerce. When I get together with other chamber peers, we laugh because chambers are not something most people grow up thinking they would like a career in, but we all agree that once you are in this field, you get hooked. What is it about chambers that we all love so much?

There are many things, but to me, one thing that climbs to the top of my list is the accountability. We work for our members and we are accountable to them. Accountability keeps us on our toes because membership is voluntary. We have to perform at a high level, changing and adapting as necessary, in order to maintain a strong and effective organization. And I love that part of the field of chamber of commerce work.

On my drive home from the class I was talking about where the meaning of communication is, my mind shifted to the topic of accountability, and soon I found myself applying that same question to accountability. Where does the responsibility of accountability lie? Is it with the person you are answerable to, or the person being held accountable? I didn’t come up with a concrete answer; I’m still pondering and researching it. But I did come up with some thoughts I want to share because I believe the better we understand and explore human action, the more we can improve ourselves, our situations, and the lives of those we encounter.

I think that, for the most part, accountability lies with the person being held accountable, but with lots of influencing factors. It’s a personal choice whether or not to face the consequences that might exist for not being accountable. But I think it is directly related to the enforcer of the consequences, the strictness of both the consequences and of the person holding you accountable.

Why am I sharing this, and why am I exposing you to the scariness that is my thought process? Because I think there is something to be said about levels of accountability and investment into your community. During my research I came across several lists of reasons why we should want to be more accountable (to ourselves or others). Three quickly became my favorite. When we are more accountable we will continue to move forward; we will stay focused on the right things; and we will achieve more success.

Aren’t those three things attractive, either for your life or for your community, or both? When I examine my own life I see areas in which I am very accountable, and areas I could work on my accountability. Just like the meaning of communication, accountability lies in the hands of the person who should be accountable. Because facing the consequences is a choice. When it comes to our community, I’m not OK with the results we will get without ever-increasing accountability. I choose accountability because I don’t want to face the consequences otherwise. And just like understanding where the meaning of communication lies, understanding where the responsibility of accountability lies can also be incredibly valuable.

Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.