Do you really want accountabilty?

The question is not a no-brainer.

Let’s consider an “accountability” mindset.

This question is a no-brainer, right? Who in their right mind would say no to the question, do you really want accountability?  Of course, we all do.  This question is actually more complex than it initially appears.

If you had to define accountability, how would you? In working with leaders, I hear things like  dependability, reliability, ownership, initiative.  Each of those words powerful in their own right.  But I think this adds to the confusion about accountability, because we label it differently, define it differently and then are confused about how to get more of it.

Ultimately, accountability means that we own up to our own actions.  That we are answerable to the outcome.  That we’re willing to look back at our actions/inactions, decisions/non-decisions, and choices and own them—good or bad.

And that is what we want don’t we?  For others to be accountable for doing the things they say they will do, so that they will hold themselves accountable.  Because if they do, we don’t have to.  And that is an incredibly significant statement. They will hold themselves accountable, so we don’t have to.  

Because if we have to, it means we have to address gaps, we have to confront difficult conversations, we have to be the “bad guy.”  And who wants that stress?  Which of the following do you want to do today?  Ask someone why they haven’t met an agreed upon deadline.  Have a discussion about poor quality work., etc.

Most of us would agree we want to do very few on that list.  Because the conversation will be potentially uncomfortable, awkward, and well, who knows how the other person will respond.

If they would have done it to begin with….we wouldn’t have to talk to them and then  wouldn’t spending time on worrying about holding them more accountable because they didn’t do something.  But thinking of accountability in this way is problematic.  When we consider accountability in the negative sense, it’s becomes about blame.

But that’s not true.

Because accountability is both, the successes and the failures.  And I think sometimes we forget that element of it.  That we get to focus on the successes as well.  We receive the positive consequences, just as equally as the looking back on our shortfalls.

To get more accountability, you must start with you.

And what about the culture in the organization.  The organizational culture, either supports or detracts from accountability.

How many TRUE?

  1. I’ve never been chastised for making a mistake.
  2. I rarely find myself having to follow up with others to make sure they’ve completed their tasks.
  3.  All managers are role models for accountability.
  4.  There are clear consequences for non-performance.
  5. I’ve never seen others around me “get in trouble” for making a mistake.
  6. Risk taking (appropriate, not in regard to safety) is encouraged.
  7. Employees demonstrate a great deal of initiative to get the job done regardless of the challenges they face.
  8. Power is shared with all employees.
  9. When new projects are assigned, goals and expectations are clear.
  10. Good performance is appreciated, recognized, and rewarded.
  11. Managers give employees a great deal of freedom and autonomy to get the job done.
  12. There are clear goals and expectations for all roles.

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The more trues you have, the more accountability you have in your culture.

Leadership seeds to consider:

  • Accountability is being answerable to an outcome.  It means we own up to our actions.  It is about acknowledging successes and shortfalls.
  • Most think about accountability connected to blame.  We fear it, because we see it as a threat.
  • If you want accountability, you must be a role model for it.
  • Accountability is cultural and can be strengthened.

To discover more actions to coach accountability, tune in next week.