There are numerous topics that we as doers think of when we initially consider the concept and practice of accountability. Many link it with the idea of responsibility. Obligations to family, work and everyday tasks such as making sure bills are paid and appointments are kept are just some of these. In this sense, responsibility does indeed imply a correlation to accountability. Yet accountability is in truth, so much, much more.
Yes, we are responsible to pay the house mortgage on time. However, we are ACCOUNTABLE to ourselves and all who live in that house, to actually meet the bottom line: ie) ensuring that we go to work and perform to the best of our abilities (capabilities) in order to guarantee our salary, that then can partially go towards meeting the responsibility of payments.
As it is in the broader sense of the real world, so too does accountability ring true in the real business world on a somewhat smaller, albeit no less important scale. The Business Dictionary defines accountability as The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept the responsibility for them, and to disclose the results of their activities in a transparent manner. It also includes the responsibility towards money and property that is entrusted to an individual or group.
Successful and repeated demonstration of an individual’s accountability involving their professional performance and meeting or exceeding agreed upon goals, leads directly towards increased confidence and trust by leadership concerning the individual or group concerned. Once that all important level of trust is established, it then becomes much easier to foster goodwill between leaders and employees, which in turn engenders positive attitudes, individual engagement and willingness to operate as a team, in order to achieve all important business objectives.
It can be argued then, that accountability is actually the foundation upon which rests all other successful business philosophy and practices. Without it, people, whether in subordinate or leadership roles, can be likened to a Tall Ship without sails: they are simply at the mercy of the natural tides – or in this case individual whim – to operate in whatever manner seems best.
Unfortunately, it is human nature to always follow the path of least resistance which many times (but certainly not all) equates to minimal performance, or doing just enough to get by without criticism. Without the structure and personal guidance that is inherent within accountability, individuals natural and cultivated strengths and capabilities are never explored or employed to their full efficacy. This in turn, directly affects their level of professional performance and allows for a large gap in business goals concerning what possibly could be realized and what actually is achieved. The difference lies somewhere between the disparity of the maximum potential of accomplishments that are achievable and the minimal execution of one’s duties just to “get by.”
Warren Buffett goes on to say that the problem of a lack of accountability is experienced at all levels of an organization; from the newly hired young employee to the most senior leadership staff, including CEO’s.
“The supreme irony of business management is that is far easier for an inadequate CEO to keep their job than it is for an inadequate subordinate. A CEO who does not perform is frequently carried indefinitely. One reason is that performance standards (or accountability) for their job seldom exist. Another important, but seldom recognized distinction between the boss and the foot soldier, is that the CEO has no immediate superior whose performance is itself getting measured. Finally, relations between the board and CEO are expected to be congenial. At board meetings, criticism of a CEO’s performance is often viewed as the social equivalent of belching. No such inhibitions restrain the office manager from critically evaluating the substandard employee.”
It can be seen then, since this issue is relevant enough to be on Mr. Buffet’s radar, that accountability – or lack thereof – in the workplace, is indeed a topic of business acumen that is in dire need of being addressed at all levels of operation.
Personal accountability, or the ability to account for agreed upon commitments and the capability of thoroughly following through on these agreements, is a primary factor that directly influences a person’s job performance and their ability to positively contribute to and influence an organization’s potential for continued progress and success in the business world.
Without accountability, both employees and leadership alike are nothing more than lone ships in the night, attempting to navigate uneasy business waters without the assistance of guiding sails to gather the collective wind and enable them to perform as a team, in order to reach the far shores of corporate profitability, which will allow all involved to flourish and thrive.
This article primarily deals with WHAT accountability is. HOW to ensure accountability is a facet of effective leadership and requires instilling a process that proceeds igniting the spirit of accountability. Vantage Path and Integro Performance Group have formulated such a process with their High Performance Culture Model which facilitates a process that starts with the baseline of instilling a Trust climate which then progresses to Clarity and Understanding of business objectives and leads into to Buy-in of the necessary organizational strategy. This is the WHY it needs to be done. It’s motivating force which promotes personal and team commitment What follows is employee Engagement tied to Accountability ultimately resulting in a higher standard of Performance.