Is Accountability Only For Others?

is accountability only for others?One of the constant laments I hear from clients is ‘how can I get my team to be accountable’? It’s always an interesting discussion because these leaders want others to be accountable, yet don’t recognize that they themselves aren’t accountable. So, is accountability only for others? Can you have a company where the rank and file should be accountable, but leaders are not? While many leaders seem to think they can, the reality is very different.

Leadership/management isn’t that different than parenting. You can’t tell your children, ‘do as I say, but not as I do’ and expect them to accept it and behave appropriately. Data from numerous studies indicate that parents who smoke, drink excessively, are grossly overweight, etc., raise children who develop the same habits. If you make promises to your kids that you don’t keep, whatever they are they learn there are different standards for you as parents than for them. The same is true in organizations.

As leaders, we make commitments to others all the time. The problem is we don’t see them as commitments so we don’t think about them in terms of accountability. I hear from clients frequently that their bosses schedule meetings and reschedule them, often at the last minute, or reschedule two or three times, or forget to be available at the scheduled time. Another example is when you, the leader, have conversations about improving communication and you don’t hold yourself to the same standard.

I have a client, the CEO of a company, who requested one of his senior staff create a draft of a business plan by a specific date, with an agreement that he would review the plan within three days of receipt to make sure they were on track with what he wanted and could make necessary changes to meet the final deadline. Even though both the senior staff member and I emailed him several times as a reminder after the draft was sent, he didn’t respond within the three days, or within a week, or within ten days. He requested accountability from someone who works for him, yet he was not accountable himself.

Accountability isn’t for the other guy. You can’t ask someone to handle something and not follow through with your part of the commitment. It’s not okay to push off meetings because what you need to do is seemingly more important. If you hire someone, your responsibility is to provide them the resources to make sure they can be successful, communicate to them your expectations, and how you are assessing their performance. Drop kicking them into the seat and holding them accountable for top-notch performance without input from you is a recipe for disappointment or failure.

If you request additional training, attend training, and then do nothing with the information you learned, you aren’t being accountable. When you ask for additional head count and then don’t ensure they are well trained, you aren’t accountable. When you are sent an email requesting information and don’t respond, you aren’t being accountable. The employee that isn’t performing well but you ignore having the conversation with demonstrates you aren’t accountable. There are numerous examples where you might think that it’s the other person who isn’t accountable and they may not be; however, it doesn’t excuse your role in allowing them to not be accountable, or assuming you aren’t accountable.

Accountability isn’t the responsibility of others. You share the responsibility. And if you want others to be accountable, you first need to demonstrate and model for them that you are accountable, and what accountability looks like. Bottom line, accountability isn’t only for others, regardless of your role within the company.

© 2018 Incedo Group, LLC

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