Should We Put Personal Accountability On The Endangered Species List?

The Government Accountability Office is an imp...

I think the concept of accountability in government is already extinct.

I have come to the conclusion that I do not think fondly of people that do not accept personal accountability.  I think that people that do accept personal responsibility have stronger relationships, provide more value to their organizations and are much more respected by their peers.  If that is the case, then why don’t more people embrace the concept of personal accountability?  I think that we have been brainwashed by politicians, CEO’s, and a host of other celebrities into thinking that it’s better to explain how it is not your fault than to accept responsibility for your actions.

I believe that effective leaders have to be masters at accepting personal accountability.  When things go horribly wrong, deadlines are missed, or errors are made, leaders have to look inward to determine what they could have done differently to effect the outcome.  I think that this is a key characteristic that a lot of leaders could benefit from developing, so I am going to give you three tips on how to develop this characteristic in your teams:

  1. Set the expectation – If you are a manager then you need to ensure that your people understand that excuses will not be tolerated.  We cannot accept our employees pointing the finger of blame or explaining why it is not their fault.  I recently questioned an error that was made in my department and the response I got was that the error was made by a brand new person.  This did not sit well with me.  As far as I know we do not have a policy that encourages new employees to make errors.  Our clients certainly are not going to care that it was a new employee that made the error.  I took it as an opportunity to help establish the manager’s personal accountability.  I asked what she could have done differently.  What changes could she make to her training program to prevent this in the future?  How could she have monitored the new employee more closely during the probationary period?  I kept asking questions like this until I was quite confident that she understood we were going to accept the accountability for this error.
  2. Provide consistent feedback – I meet with each of my direct reports one on one each week.  This is my opportunity to review their progress against their goals and provide them feedback (both positive and constructive) on their performance over the course of the last week.  This is the greatest opportunity that I have to influence their behaviors.  I praise them for taking accountability and personally owning issues that come up, and I help them to see the error of their ways when they are simply pointing fingers.  This is the single greatest tool I have in my management arsenal.  If you are not conducting one on ones with your employees then you should be.
  3. Lead by example – As a leader, you set the tone for your team.  If you play the blame game every time an issue arises, then you can count on your team members doing the same thing.  The first person you need to take responsibility for is you.  When issues arise, ask questions like:
  • What could I have done differently to prevent this issue?
  • What training could I seek out to help prevent this type of issue?
  • How could I have communicated more effectively in order to have prevented this issue?
  • How can I make this situation right?

Sometimes instilling a little accountability can require some confrontational conversations, but in my opinion that is a small price to pay.  We need to stop worrying so much about looking good and focus a little more time and effort on actually being good.

I am wrong here?  Is personal accountability going the way of the dinosaur?  Have you ever worked with a manager that refused to accept accountability for anything that went wrong?  How were they viewed in the company?

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