Accountability, or “How to use dirty words in the office and get away with it”

My colleague gave me a button a few months ago:


My first thought was, “This person really gets me.”  And then I started thinking…wait a minute.  This button basically is designed  for laughs – and that’s not cool.

I am a HUGE believer in the power of accountability.  Every person should be accountable for his/her actions, thoughts, behaviors, wardrobe choices (sorry, but have you SEEN some of the red carpet looks out there?), whatever it might be.  Accountability IS a dirty word right now – all you have to do is read the local news to see how little personal accountability people want to take.  People blame genetics, circumstances, parenting, allergies…we are a society rife with reasons it’s “NOT MY FAULT”.  Well, I’m not okay with that.  Since I don’t claim to be someone with a lot of experience in fixing society, I’m going to focus my Accountability Crusade on the business world.  Below are a few good reasons why accountability should be first and foremost in your leadership approach:

  • Accountability will set you free: As soon as you accept that you OWN your actions, you can actually do something about them.  When something is being done to you, there is very little that you feel you can do.  That’s why in grammar it’s referred to as the passive voice.  People often say they are powerless to take action…well, here’s your chance!  Take accountability for your role in life and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
  • Accountability as a motivational factor: When someone is accountable to complete a task, they automatically become eligible to receive credit when that task is completed correctly.  That’s how it should work, anyway.  Oh…did you think maybe accountability was only about people getting into trouble when something goes wrong?  A lot of your employees think that, too.  Help them see accountability as an opportunity to shine and gain that elusive “visibility” they’ve heard so much about.  I know from experience that when I was given the accountability for a process, I was much more motivated to ensure it was done well.  Top performers want to be owners – ownership breeds interest, and interest build engagement.
  • Accountability applies to EVERYONE – even you: Be honest, you kind of sort of clicked on this post thinking you could send it to someone else who really needs to learn more about accountability.  🙂  That’s okay – that just means you’re normal.  Normal doesn’t absolve you from taking accountability for your actions, though.  In fact, it highlights how powerful it is when the leader practices regular accountability.  So try it.  Am I perfect at it?  Heck no!  I would LOVE to be able to pin my mistakes on someone else.  But I actively work on my personal accountability, and I think it makes me a better leader and a better person to be around.  Oh, and by the way – I don’t care if that one employee is a jerk but brings in SOOOOO much business.  He/She needs to be held accountable, too.
  • “Accountability” rolls downhill: (I told you I’d show you how to use dirty words and get away with it.)  Nothing is more powerful than an organization in which accountability just is.  There are no Accountability Initiatives, no signs saying “The buck stops here.”  It’s simply the expectation and day-to-day is-ness of your way of life.  Doesn’t that sounds great?  Think of all the time you’d save, or the quality of your work.  Ahh… (take a moment.  we’ll wait)  So how to achieve this nirvana?  Well, it starts at the top and rolls down.    Hold yourself accountable.  Hold your senior team accountable.  No one gets a pass – and everyone has an opportunity to shine.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to accountability.  Leaders, don’t shy away from this “dirty word” – shout it loudly and often.  Start an “Accountability Jar” (with apologies to New Girl) and contribute to it when you see a remarkable display of accountability.  Use the jar to take the team out.  (I didn’t say accountability is its own reward…sometimes it needs a push.)  Whatever you do, make accountability a part of you and your team.

How do you practice accountability?  Share in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Accountability, or “How to use dirty words in the office and get away with it”

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