“People behave exactly the way the culture teaches and reinforces them to behave.”
Ron Rael, Leadership Coach
Accountability Principle 1:
- Everyone is born without an understanding of accountability. We learn it from the people around us. If they have it, we learn it. If they lack it, we do not know what being accountable is.
What Accountability Is and Is Not
There is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding as to what accountability is. People frequently and mistakenly believe that accountability is about the other person. Accountability is about you! Unfortunately, in today’s world we have very little support for the value of accountability. If you look at the popular media you will see example after example of a person that is not accountable being rewarded for behaving that way. This sends a message to others that it is okay to act as the victim or to neglect personal responsibility. The blame game runs rampant throughout society. We tend to blame others for our misfortunes or for the ups and downs of life.
Accountability is keeping my word, meeting OUR commitments, and taking full ownership for my actions. Accountability is accepting reality (what is) without finding fault, placing blame, or hiding from the truth.
The first part of this definition is something that you could have written yourself. Every professional understands at an intuitive level that we must follow through on our commitments.
The second part of the definition is something most people cannot articulate when asked to define accountability. This is because in business, as well as society, we are so used to playing the blame game: whenever things go wrong we automatically find a scapegoat. Governments, individuals, leaders, managers, supervisors, and employees in business play this.
The mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner, is playing the blame game with the City of San Diego. He is accused of sexually harassing a former co-worker and other women. Filner’s private lawyer, Harvey Berger, claims that the City of San Diego is liable for the lawsuit against Filner, because the mayor never received sexual harassment prevention training. The city council voted to sue the mayor to make him liable for damages.
This is an extreme example of a lack of accountability for one’s actions, but the theme is a common occurrence. Being accountable is hard and rarely honored and since many people prefer the low road or easy path, they choose not to be accountable.
Leaders must work each day to remind employees that the easiest path is being accountable and when they are not accountable, there are severe consequences for veering off the high road.
While it may seem obvious that accountability helps to build a successful team and company, here are a few of the most important benefits. Accountability
- Establishes individual integrity.
- Contributes to corporate integrity.
- Ensures employees follow through on their commitments.
- Guarantees people can rely on the team and on one another.
- Allows the team leader to spend less time acting as a supervisor.
- Builds employees who are dependable, yet can act independently.
- Reminds employees to hold themselves and each other accountable.
- Every employee’s behavior has an ultimate impact on the quality of the relationship we have with our customer, client, patient, or whoever it is we serve.
Think about how all of these impact your efforts.
Do you see how increased accountability helps you build a great organization?