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Accountability in the Workplace
October 05, 2016


When we discuss building an accountable workplace, we first must look at personal accountability. Leaders should be challenged to look in the mirror! Unless a leader is demonstrating accountability, they cannot expect others around them to be accountable. 

There are two different positions or viewpoints of accountability: 1) Liable to be held to account- answerable or 2) Willingness to claim 100% ownership for the results provided as a consequence of your involvement both individually and collectively with others. 

While there are definitely situations that require the first, we can attract the best talent and lead our competition within the marketplace if our leaders use the second. The first position tends to lead with fear. Position two, if done correctly, creates an environment and culture that fosters innovation. Mistakes are made, but people learn and grown from them instead of covering them up.

The authors of The OZ Principle share that accountability is an attitude of continually asking, “What else can I do to rise above my circumstances and achieve the results I desire?” It is the process of “seeing it, owning it, and doing it.” It requires a level of ownership that includes making, keeping and proactively responding to personal commitments. It is a perspective that embraces both current and future efforts rather than reactive and historical explanations
Leaders need to be constantly aware of how their attitude on any given day can affect their accountability as well as their team’s accountability. 

Personal Accountability 

If you think your personal accountability is faltering, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why does my job exist?

  • How do I make money for the company?

  • How do I save money for the company?

  • How do I waste money for the company?

Being an accountable leader means stopping the blame game and reworking your thought process. Instead of “Who did this?” try “How can I help you to ensure this does not happen again?” Instead of “When will we be able to hire some decent people?” try “How can we as a team improve this result?” 

Organizational Accountability

As we consider organization accountability, it’s very important to realize that team members will be at different levels and this affects overall organizational accountability. This especially holds true for rapidly growing organizations, mergers/acquisitions and downsizing. Note that these scenarios all have something in common- CHANGE! Organizational accountability will always be at risk during periods of change. Effective leaders are always very conscious of their own personal accountability during such periods. 

Organizational accountability includes the following pieces:

  • Leadership

  • Skilled workers

  • Process improvement

  • Linking performance to criteria that create business success

  • Correcting unhelpful behavior

  • Recognition

So what are the characteristics of accountable organizations?

  • Clear direction and priorities

  • Shared ownership

  • Effective execution

  • Relentless attack of dysfunctional habits

  • Surface and resolve conflicts

  • Proactive recovery

  • Measure performance execution

  • Recognize success

Critical to Success

Beyond key leaders being aware of their own attitudes, there are three key things that are absolutely critical to organizational accountability. 

Clear direction: Without this, individuals and teams will be unlikely to foster an accountable workplace.
Non-negotiable priorities: Successful leaders and their key staff should always be on the same page in regards to priorities.
Execution- The key to high performance: Successful organizations always demonstrate execution or “getting stuff done.” This is seen as progressive and attracts top talent.

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