What the world needs now is personal accountability

Who is accountable working

What does “being accountable” mean? Chances are, one of the definitions on this list comes to mind for you:

  • Commitment and/or buy-in.
  • Completing within agreed timeframes.
  • Having the authority and resources.
  • Knowing how it ties in and communicating this with others.
  • Pride of ownership.
  • Taking action – having to do it.
  • Taking responsibility for decisions and results.
  • Willingness to review decisions.
  • Ability to account for where we are.

Whenever I ask this question in a business context, there is never any doubt that accountability means personal accountability. Yet when we link a name to a key result or action step, people invariably want to say “everyone” is accountable, or it’s “the sales department” or “Jean, Jimmy, Jose, and Jenny.” We all have trouble separating the need to implement with the help of a team from the need to have someone accountable.

The very nature of implementation requires the coordinated efforts of several team members. How can a single accountable person deal with the challenge of managing tasks dependent on several people? Here are strategies that can help:

  • One, named individual takes responsibility for delivering the final result. That person manages both their personal effort (about 50% of their time) and the assistance they receive from others (about 50% of their time).
  • Up front, the owner of the result — the responsible, accountable party — makes sure every contributor knows what he or she is expected to contribute and by when. The owner can act as a coach once the contributors are on board, understanding and committing to delivering their piece of the puzzle.
  • The owner takes responsibility for 100% of communications, making sure the contributors understand the importance and impact of any memo, email or report.
  • The owner is proactive in making sure that the contributor is on track to deliver.
  • The owner pushes to simplify tasks, reassign tasks, call others in to help, or brainstorm if a contributor runs into any snags.

The key to successful implementation is two fold:

  1. The team agrees that the results they have promised to deliver are important and strategic.
  2. A single, passionate, named individual is accountable for the result and is proactive about making sure it happens.

For additional thoughts on how to establish accountability with the people to whom you delegate, read our article on strategic delegation, recently published in Employment Relations Today.

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