Accountability is a sub-set of responsibility. It is easy to confuse the two; they are related yet distinct and it certainly does not work to have one without the other. Like a wheel on your car they must be in perfect balance in order to work optimally. A little too much of one and not enough of the other will cause issues. More on that later…. You will recall my previous post on responsibility and foresight and the predictive nature of responsibility. If foresight is the province of responsibility then accountability is in contrast a rear-guard action, it looks backwards and is mostly evident after the fact. It is usually after the fact that you can see it missing and see how willing you are to hold yourself to your stated values.
Accountability is active, not passive.
Accountability is an active word and involves you taking action. What gets in the way of taking action is counter-intention. Anyone who is successful follows a system, taking massive action in the direction of their stated goals so that outcomes can take care of themselves. Taking action creates possibilities that didn’t previously exist. For this to occur, you must have a commitment to your stated outcomes and leave no-thing to chance. It is not enough to expect that things will be done, it requires consistent follow up and the appropriate structures in place to ensure those stated outcomes will occur. The two most powerful words in the accountability space are “By when?” Even then, “By when?”, only works if there is consistent follow up.
Who’s training who?
Whether you realise it or not you are always training those around you in what to expect from you and what you expect from them. You also train them in what you are willing to put up with. So, it’s follow through is critical as is follow up. You can create an environment when all are proactively accountable. If the “By when?” is not met or re-negotiated then that is exactly when the accountability conversation is triggered and occurs. It would be easy to think that accountability is a hard nosed way of being; it can be. It is also supportive. Asking questions like, “What do you need?” “How can I best assist and work with you to achieve …..?” are critical. Without such questions, you can create a set-up for failure. If you really want to ‘win’, play a team game so that everyone can experience winning.
Acting consistent with your values.
As far as accountability goes, you are accountable to yourself, first and foremost and to your own values. Accountability is a space you first hold yourself, IF you are to have any chance of holding someone else accountable. It always works best if you walk the talk yourself around accountability; otherwise it is an uphill battle for you and those around you. Accountability means no matter what you will not violate your own values. It also means being accountable to others and holding yourself and others to the promises and commitments made. Again, you will find this easier IF you walk the talk. In some ways, accountability is a “take no prisoners” way of being. Don’t make excuses. Don’t buy into the excuses and story of others. In this way you can free yourself and move forward with ease.
Learn to say NO!
We often want to please people, get along with others and not rock the boat. It can be very easy to say YES. Sometimes the right thing for you to say is NO. Some questions to ask yourself before you say yes or no.
- Is what I am saying yes to aligned with my values or not? Is it right for me?
- Am I clear about what I am saying YES to; do I have enough information?
- Can I honour the commitment I am making, what will it take to do that?
Often how successful you are has just as much to do with what you say NO to. Ask the 3 questions above and you will go along way to keeping your commitments and not letting yourself or anyone else down.
P.S. Structures are your insurance policy!
It’s all about structures as it is the structures that ensure what you are out to achieve IS actually achieved. Without structures in place to drive an outcome, you rely on chance and the goodwill of those around you. Setting agreements down in writing, having clear policies and procedures that are agreed upon at the outset provide not only a point of reference they also crystallise what is said, alleviating and minimising doubt. Of course, it may take a few write ups and work throughs; that is part of the process. It also means everyone is kept honest as the rules have been clearly defined from the outset. If you have failed in the past take a look at how you measure-up in accountability.