Cont… Management experts and authors Roger Connors and Tom Smith have a different take: they look at accountability from the bottom up. Introducing an article on accountability by these authors, Sources of Insight.com editor shares a revealing quote and opinion on what accountability means: “Accountability breeds response-ability.”
The quote is by Stephen Covey. It refers to the personal and innovative nature of accountability, the decision to act rather than be acted upon, the ability to engage, own and direct things rather than passively participating, the difference between reacting and responding.
Connors and Smith list the principles of accountability in this article: 1) Accountability is a choice; 2) There are two sides to accountability; 3) Accountability begins by defining results; 4) What you create accountability for is what you get; and 5) The most important person to hold accountable is yourself.
These first two principles, choice and the two sides of accountability, are especially important because they involve your position or thinking about accountability.
The authors give an example about choice. They describe a district manager Paau, Sue, whose sales stayed within the mid-range: neither stellar nor the bottom of the pile. When her organization decided to implement an overhaul, they told Sue that they considered her a “renter” manager rather than an “owner” manager, that she was a “caretaker” rather than an “invested” producer.
Sue could have gone “below the line:” playing what the authors call the “blame game” or playing the victim or she could go “above the line” and assume accountability for the diagnosis and do something to change it.
Sue chose the path that Connors and Smith describe as: “See It, Own It, Solve It and Do It.”
In terms of the second principle, the authors address the fact that there are two sides to accountability. You can think of accountability as something you have to do or something that you own, something that you should do or something that you want to do. Again, a choice. Sue took the proactive choice. She didn’t blame the company for the way she had worked: she worked to change it. She became an active participant not only her own career but in the success of the company rather than a passive participant in either.
The authors explain that making such a choice and being proactive gives you a level of satisfaction that no company policy can ever give you. Certainly, this choice depends upon the ability to make it: if your organization isn’t an empowering or trusting one, then you get backpedaling rather than forwardness, more problems instead of solutions, excuses instead of innovations and dissatisfaction instead of motivation.
Executive and personal coach Kathy Paauw describes this mindset as the difference between a victim mentality and an accountable one. She recommends the book by John Miller: “The Question Behind the Question.” Instead of asking “Why me?” or “Isn’t it their fault?” the QBQ (Question Behind the Question) approach involves asking empowering and open questions about obstacles rather than taking blaming and dead-ended perspectives.
Paauw offers a number of office tools to improve productivity. One partaker, Carol, was excited about products that could help both her and her company become more productive. Carol was unable to get permission to purchase the products. Instead of blaming her company for her overwork and the declining output for the company overall, Carol decided to buy these improving tools out of her own pocket. What ended up happening? She produced so well that her organization ended up purchasing these products for the rest of the company and promoting Carol.
Miller explains that we can look at frustrating circumstances from a victim mentality or as an opportunity for solutions: we can ask what we can do rather that spend thought energy on what our company isn’t doing.
In terms of creating accountability, Connors and Smith describes how Sue defined results in a specific way. She wanted to win a specific sales promotion among her stores. She defined the goals and checked up on her stores with surprise visits to ensure that what needed to happen was happening.
In terms of the last principle? Connors and Smith point out that the payoff for being accountable is greater for yourself than it is for your employer. Sue, over time, moved from the mediocre manager to the 3rd ranked executive in her company and the pay raises and company rewards didn’t compare to her personal satisfaction because of it.
Accountability isn’t easy, especially when your coworkers may be used to dodging responsibility or blaming the higher-ups but that leadership principle of “walking the talk,” of role modeling the right behavior, can be contagious.
Consider executive coaching for all your employees to increase accountability and empowerment, engagement and commitment, problem-solving and innovation from the inside out in your company.