No matter the experience of a pilot, the safety of flight hinges on the use of checklists. 

Among seasoned pilots, captains and first officers alike, there is an old adage that pilots are able to run their “flows”—the order of movement across the buttons, switches and controls—in their sleep. The familiarity is built upon the hours learning, practicing and performing such flows repeatedly. However, while this disciplined method exists to enhance safety, naturally a complacency develops that tempts pilots to “run” the flow without verifying their actions against the checklist.

Let me be clear: in the airlines, running checklists is non-negotiable. Sure, it may take time, but pilots—as much as they hate to admit—are only human. The flight deck is busy, and checklists establish the much-needed management to prevent human error. Their usage is an essential element of the SOP (standard operating procedure)—part of everything being backed up—sometimes even tripled backed up. 

Included in the SOP are audible callouts and confirmations before the execution of critical operations like crossing runways, alterations to the route and changing altitudes. And while en-route, aviators use the terminology “pilot flying” and “pilot monitoring” to properly clarify each pilot’s function. Because at 30 thousand feet, there is minimal leeway for error and ego. Great pilots know this—embracing the team philosophy known as Crew Resource Management, trusting that the best pilots aren’t the most knowledgeable, proficient (or on time), but entirely accountable to safety.

Oddly enough, while we demand this level of accountability of our pilots, it’s something many of us give little thought to apply to our personal lives.

We recognize (and even appreciate) the accountability demonstrated within sensitive industries similar to aviation, but neglect to consider its potential within our own realm of existence.

Why are we okay with this?

Simple: accountability requires transparency and vulnerability—which are considerably more intrusive than operating checklists. But I promise you: checklists and accountability relationships serve the same function: establish order and prevent against human error. And while we’re conditioned to believe accountability is for the weak, or at minimum unobtainable, that’s a false narrative that ends today.

So if you’re willing to leave your comfort zone to expand your influence and gain a deeper self-awareness, keep reading. Below is an accountability crash course that will help you grasp why it’s worth the effort and how to implement it in your life.

Accountability Defined

Technically, accountability is on-going ownership of your actions. It’s doing what you say you’re going to do. It looks like this in Scripture:

Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one (Matthew 5:37 NLT).

For example, I’ve committed to a particular body weight, but this is complicated when chips and salsa are placed before me. However, knowing that I will step on a scale each morning encourages me to own my “no” to more food.

The Value of Accountability

Simon Sinek explains that where our values merge with our actions, a culture is established. The airlines desire a safety culture, so the SOP—accountability—ensures the pilots’ actions merge with the airline’s values. Similar to the airlines, leaders know the importance of establishing a healthy culture because the same reason people board an airplane (to go somewhere) is the same reason they will embrace our influence (to go somewhere with us): this requires trust.

Trust is built upon consistency. Accountability ensures that consistency.

Implementing Accountability

Accountability begins with confession or homologeo in Greek. Homo means “the same,” and logeo means “to speak.” So confession is merely aligning what you say with what God asks or says is Truth. [1]

My prayer is that, just as checklists help pilots navigate from one location safely to the next, this checklist will assist you in developing the accountability needed to reach your personal and leadership potential.

RELATED: Accountability Deconstructed: Advice to Millennials

ACCOUNTABILITY CHECKLIST

  • Confess …… that you cannot do life alone
  • Pray ….. for God to bring a trusted friend into your life
  • Read ….. God’s Word (while you wait for that friend); explore His directives and promises
  • Ask ….. that friend if they’re open to an accountability relationship
  • Define ….. boundaries for the accountability relationship (essentially these are expectations, such as: being completely truthful, and even simple things like calling or arriving promptly at the scheduled time/location) 
  • Commit ….. equally to a reciprocal accountability relationship
  • Pray ….. for spiritual discernment (allowing the Holy Spirit to be in charge of the guidance and feedback)
  • Accept ….. your friend’s correction as guidance, not as judgement, and put it into action
  • Speak …… Truth, not criticism, into your accountability partner
  • Protect ….. one another and what is shared between one another 
  • Pray ….. for a continued and growing accountability relationship 

As uncomfortable as it may feel in the beginning (to let someone in on things you may have never shared with your parents or spouse), embrace an awkward start, minimal agenda and realistic expectations. Build the relationship first and trust that God will release the tough stuff hindering the potential hidden inside you. 

Forgive my cliché, albeit apropos, conclusion: remember, a plane takes off against the wind. And while living with accountability may seem unnatural and clumsy, it will morph into the movement needed for your God-given calling to take flight.

C.J. Wetzler is the student pastor at The Message Church in Lubbock, Texas. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. He loves to mentor the next generation of leaders and considers himself a fast food connoisseur. For questions or comments, connect with him on social media: @thecjwetzler.