Thursday, April 5, 2012


Accountability by broad definition is the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, and accept responsibility for them.  Both company and employees of the company need to acknowledge liability for their deeds.  Accountability is not something that you force people to do but rather through acclimation to a company that has accountability as a core value, teaches them to become responsible for their achievements and failures.  It’s been said that through challenge, real character is shown.  Likewise by making yourself uncomfortable by adapting to a culture shift based on accountability, you will grow from it.  I believe that Oprah Winfrey coined a phrase that said: “Do what’s right consistently no matter who’s watching you”.

 In an earlier post, we talked about humility and the importance of that trait in leadership.  Personal accountability is a clear “cousin” of humility.

Very recently I was talking to a senior level manager about factors inhibiting his company’s success.  I was impressed with his openness in the manner in which he talked about strategies and milestones.  In particular he was talking about accountability and how it was up to him and his leadership to rise above the challenge and move forward.  I was listening attentively and admiring his candor and then it hit.  He went into a tirade about how a partnering company was the reason for failure.  The blame game was significant and it appeared to me that all grounds for missing goals were clearly not his but squarely on the shoulders of the inept partner.  I could sense that he had to get it out in the open that he was all-knowledgeable and knew exactly why the overall mission failed.  At no point during his rant did he mention how through better collaboration the partnership could have succeeded.  Everything was blamed on the partnering company!  He then smiled at me and once again started his discourse on how if they were going to succeed they needed to inspire and lead by a culture based on personal accountability.  I must say my earlier impressions of his leadership and the strategical plan that they had implemented was severely tarnished.  Can it be fixed?  Yes!  Can it be fixed with this senior level manager?  Maybe!

I was called in to possibly assist in this re-launching effort.  Through my discussions it was apparent that the blame game could be rampant in this organization.  When that happens, you lose all sense of trust between management and co-workers.  By becoming more accountable you help to establish an environment that is more open and people not only better understand their roles but also their purpose in those roles and the commitment needed for success. Acknowledge the reality of the situation.  Be humble, own it and then you can move forward in fixing it! There are some ways in which we can improve our ability to foster a culture that is based on accountability:

Listening & Observation ~ Gaining first hand information by personal observation is extremely helpful. 

Ask yourself if you are “Walking the Talk” and being accountable? ~ Do you welcome feedback?  Do you model the behaviors that you would like to see through  your organization?  Do you “dig deeper” for clarification of things that you may not completely understand?  In other words…do you know everything OR are you modeling humility?
 In the case of the senior level manager that we talked about above, although in his mind he was the model of humility and personal accountability his discourse on blame was somewhat scary.  As this manager learns more in becoming a leader he will become more accountable to his team and executive management.  It is OK to be assertive in a manner which is straightforward and truthful without being dominant and exhibiting aggressive and overzealous gestures.  As a manager it is very transparent to the employees working for you or with you that “blame is an acceptable excuse”.  The manner and ability that one has in distinguishing himself by showing greater accountability and humility will be the fastest way for him to earn respect, trust and possibly promotions into executive management.
An unknown author once wrote that “responding accountably to life’s challenges gives you the power to change things.  That’s the biggest benefit of all.

When life’s not fair, when you get lemons thrown at you, turn them into lemonade by looking at them with pride, picking them up, polishing them, nurturing them and above all be humble and accountable.
This analogy of lemons and positive behaviors with a lemon fortifies the belief that management is not “rocket science”.  It is an art that when nurtured helps that manager become a leader.  Once this maturation process takes place the leader motivates and supports people, not casting blame but rather allowing people to be accountable.  Just remember one things, Accountability starts with “A”!  The first letter of the alphabet.  YOU are “A”!

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