On Accountability and in being accountable


In my earlier article on the ‘blame game’, I suggested we never use the term blame, instead replace it with ‘accountable’; as it has an inherent sense of ownership and association with the task assigned such that if it fails, the one would own the accountability of its failure and not pass the buck.

The term ‘accountable’ and ‘accountability’ find different interpretations and applications; most commonly understood with a negative connotation – unfortunately.  Most of us if asked when these words would be used; quick would be our answer to point out situations where something failed or was under delivered and someone were held responsible for it.  Our perception of these terms always associates it with something negative.   What is interesting though is that the system we have implemented in our teams or organizations is largely designed to highlight negatives, failures.  This is because we always fear the worse, as a result we always device mechanisms and processes to prevent the negative.  We are so focused on this that we literally fail to realise that there exists a green zone of positives, of new ideas, innovations and doing something differently.  And it is because our innate desire is to prevent the negative, valuable terms like accountable and accountability bear a negative perception.  Let’s face it, we always use them when we have to find a head to load the failure on; don’t we?

But with the economic conditions and market dynamics changing so rapidly; it needs us as leaders and managers to really stop fearing the negative.  We have been trying to prevent the negative and what happened with the economic downturn worked as a forest fire just ended up demolishing some businesses completely.

What if we were focused on the positives and clearly establish the risks involved; and safe guarded ourselves against the risks but stayed focused on the positives?  May be we could have had very good market conditions.

In this tone, I would like to highlight that accountability and thus being accountable is an extremely powerful thing.  Accountability does not only equal being responsible for something, but instead it means we ‘own’ it and have thus the responsibility to see through its successful completion.  It’s like a father being accountable for taking care of his family; thus making sure there is regular income, proper facilitation of life essentials and security, quality education for children etc. become his responsibilities.  He needs to be ‘accountable’ first – own it first – and then will he become responsible.

Accountability is always towards the objectives and responsibility is towards various goals leading to successful completion of these objectives.  If increasing the volume share penetration within the existing clients is an objective; then ensuring proper delivery processes, maintaining quality standards, process review and audits, team development – training, etc. thus become the responsibilities of a manager.  The thing he would be accountable for is increasing the volume share penetration but everything that it takes to do so becomes his responsibility.

At the same time, when someone is made accountable for an objective, it also requires him to be provided with:

–         Sufficient knowledge, skill sets needed to meet the objective

–         Appropriate decision authority required for successful completion of the goals

–         Autonomy in choosing the approach he as a leader would deploy to accomplish the objective

–         Enough man power and resources needed to get the job done

–         Guidance and knowledge sharing from previous experiences which will come to aide or become a reference point

–         A proper review mechanism and validation framework – built along with the person made accountable

–         An objective assessment of progress and assistance in developing course correction methods

If the above are provided only then can you rightfully call someone accountable, otherwise you are merely finding a head to attribute the failure on to and setting it up for failure.  As a leader assigning accountability to someone in your team, you are responsible to provide him/her with the right framework to ensure success and move forward in the positive areas.

Accountability thus involves a lot of faith, trust and belief from the person above in the corporate pyramid who is assigning the objective and from the people below who would work with the person made accountable to accomplish the objective.

I strongly believe…

Accountability is actions toward or involving others that reflect the integrity of the person you are and what you want to be!

Thus being assigned the accountability and in being accountable for an objective is an extremely powerful thing; because you now ‘own’ something and have to make sure you lead it to success.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Leadership, People Management, Team Building

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