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Accountability Matters

Thoughts on the importance of accountability in the workplace and - more importantly - how to achieve it.

Accountability is an interesting topic. Unlike alignment, accountability is frequently talked about. Customers want accountability, leaders want accountability, most job descriptions event list “accountability” as a desired skill. We all want accountability in our work and home lives, but most of us don’t know how to get it.

Accountability enables autonomous working, increased trust, professionalism, more things get done and even the ability for employees to work virtually. When your team is accountable, you can have more fun! When people aren’t accountable, they don’t do what they say they’re going to. They lose credibility. Managers start to limit delegation and start taking on more. This creates resentfulness and family issues around work-life balance. It can create a lack of trust and start the fired, hired cycle.

Most people want to be accountable, but they don’t like people holding them accountable or holding others accountable. This might stem from a trust level, a fear of hard conversations, maybe you were held accountable by parents or teachers growing up and it didn’t feel good. Maybe its pride, a fear of vulnerability or the desire to appear a certain way to your peers. I find people’s distain for being held, or holding others, accountable interesting, because when asked, most people want to be accountable.

I’ve found that the easiest way to ensure my team is accountable, is to create a culture of accountability. Accountability means doing what you say and saying what you do. Renegotiation is a huge tool in accountability. We’ve all been in circumstances where we can’t complete what we said we were going to do, or can’t complete it by the due date. Whether it’s over commitment, someone getting sick, a late shipment, or even the weather, everyone knows that stuff happens. Being accountable when you cannot do what you said you were going to do means reaching out to the involved parties and renegotiating. This may mean sucking up your pride, but it also means you will be seen as a person of integrity.

Accountability is a standard or commitment that we hold inside ourselves. It’s a learned skill. The wonderful thing about doing what we say and saying what we do is that it creates confidence and personal integrity. You’ll be held in higher regard if you keep your word. Accountability means something to those around you and you’ll be seen as professional, upstanding and a man or woman of integrity if you hold yourself accountable. It’s easy not to realize the negative impact of not being accountable. When you lack accountability, your energy towards striving for it reduces.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”
-Aristotle

When I was younger, it was easy to just not do things. It takes courage and is hard to say no or to renegotiate. When no one holds us accountable, it’s easy to just assume we can live life like that, or to assume that single moments of accountability can tide us over. Now that I’m older, I’ve realized that being accountable is powerful. It makes me feel strong and confident and good about myself. When I’m not accountable, I judge myself. It eats my confidence and power. It feels much better to do what I say and say what I do and be honest when I need to say no or to renegotiate.

As a leader, it’s important to model accountability. When individuals don’t do what they said they were going to, a leader needs to remind them, even if the conversation is uncomfortable. People don’t want to be unaccountable, so the result of the conversation, I find, is the individual I’m speaking with usually leaves more inspired and feeling better. It can be a sensitive subject. It’s important to make it OK to talk about accountability neutrally and not disrespectfully. These conversations can be tough, but ultimately, it will help move progress on goals and objectives. Maybe the individual has something going on at home, or maybe he or she just doesn’t have the necessary skills to do the job. These conversations can help clear up what’s going on and make expectations clear. I use performance reviews to encourage accountability in my staff.

Ask yourself, what kind of impact do you want to make? What do you want to contribute to the team? How do you want to be perceived?

When you’re not accountable, your team will start to judge you. Your character starts to change inside the organization. This doesn’t mean your co-workers will hate you, but likely they will want to work with someone who is easy to work with and who gets stuff done.

There are many reasons why you might not be operating from a space of accountability. It’s important to look closely at your universe to see what’s hindering you and take care of it so you can get back in integrity. Maybe its family drama, or a disorganized system. To be accountable, you first need to make sure your world is in order.

Ultimately, operating from a space of accountability will better serve you professionally and personally. You will experience a higher degree of self-confidence, you will accomplish more tasks and goals, and your team will see you as an asset instead of a hindrance. Look deep inside and, if you’re not operating in accountability, identify why and work towards fixing it. It’s never too late to start!

If you’re interested in learning more on how to bring accountability into the workplace visit www.mcgheepro.com for more information or email [email protected] to chat with me directly.

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