“There is a remedy for ignorance called ‘Awareness’ but there is no cure for stupidity”
Accountability is a Big Flashing Neon Sign of Character
It seems like not taking responsibility has become an epidemic.
Accountability is an old fashioned idea that says you are answerable for your actions — and inactions. If questions come up or something goes wrong, it’s you who must absorb scrutiny. The willingness to be accountable for what you do and what you fail or refuse to do is a crucial sign of character.
- Are into excuses
- Blaming others
- Putting things off
- Doing the minimum
- Acting confused
- Playing helpless victims / martyrs
They pretend ignorance while hiding behind
- Other people
- They say things like
- “I didn’t know
- ”I didn’t do it”
- “I wasn’t there”
- “I don’t have time”
- “It’s not my job”
- That’s just the way I am”
- “Nobody told me”
- “It isn’t really hurting anyone”
- “I’m just doing what I was told to do”
Unaccountable people are quick to complain and slow to act. In organisations, unaccountability is a highly contagious disease.
How accountable are you?
Does it depend on the situation or are you always ready to accept responsibility for your decisions and behaviours?
On a scale of 1-10, with 1 representing “Never” and 10 representing “Always,” rank yourself on each of these characteristics of accountability. They apply equally well to professional and personal situations.
1. I communicate regularly and accurately with associates.
2. If I don’t understand something, I seek out information.
3. I own my own problems and circumstances.
4. When I make a mistake, I admit it.
5. I am proactive, often taking the initiative.
6. I ask for the things I need to do my job.
7. I analyse my activities and ask, “How is this contributing to organisational objectives?”
8. I analyse my activities and ask, “What more can I do?”
9. I stand and deliver when it’s time to report on my actions.
10. I welcome feedback.
11. I model accountability for the people I work with and supervise.
12. I readily confront unaccountable behaviour in others.
The higher the score, the better. Take a second look at items on which you ranked yourself at the low end of the scale.
What can you do to become more accountable in those areas?
Get Out From Behind Your Job Description
In his 7/7/98 radio spot on CBS’s KNX-1070 AM in Los Angeles, Michael Josephson, Founder and President of the Josephson Institute of Ethics told this story:
While stuck in traffic, Hank, a manager of road crews, saw Nick digging holes and Claude following him to fill them up. Appalled, Hank asked Nick what he was doing. “What we’ve done for 10 years.” Nick replied. “I dig holes and Claude fills ’em.” “But that doesn’t make any sense,” Hank said. “Well it did until last January when Phil retired. Phil used to put a tree in the hole before Claude filled it.” “You’ve been doing this since January? Why didn’t you tell somebody?” Hank sputtered. “My gosh, Phil got a retirement letter from you, we figured you knew.”
Countless people in organisations everywhere waste time and resources digging useless holes. Engaging in mindless behaviours that defy logic is the antithesis of accountability.
Accountability means more than just doing your job. It includes an obligation to make things better, to pursue excellence, and to do things in ways that further the goals of the organisation. If outmoded or wasteful tasks are part of your job description, it’s your responsibility to do something about it.
Evaluate time spent in three categories of activity.
How much time do you devote to core responsibilities? These are the “must do’s” in your job description.
How often do you perform extras that contribute significantly to the organisation but aren’t really required?
How much time do you spend doing things of questionable value, like unproductive busywork, unnecessary phone calls, and tasks you’d be better off delegating?
A definite way to increase your value within the organisation is to expand the core category to include progressively more “extras” while at the same time eliminating questionable activities. In other words, stretch yourself and your job description as well.
Be willing to rise above circumstances, including your job description if necessary, and do whatever it takes to achieve the objectives of the organisation.
Be proactive. Recognise problems and solve them in responsible, intelligent ways.
It doesn’t matter where the problem comes from. It might be yours or it might be inherited. The crucial question is, “What are you going to do about it?”
Your Accountability Toolkit
Careful, attentive listening helps you gather up-to-date, accurate information, identify problem situations and promote collaboration.
Seek out information and ideas. Request clarification when you don’t understand something.
Invite and offer feedback
Find out what associates think about your ideas and performance.
Give honest, constructive feedback to others.
When necessary, confront situations and people in an assertive style that is straightforward and truthful without being threatening or overly aggressive. Ask for what you need to do your job effectively, like information, assistance and support.
And don’t be afraid to say no.
Being accountable is one of the fastest ways to earn respect, trust, and promotions. More importantly, it puts you in control of your life.
Responding accountably to life’s challenges gives you the power to change things. That’s the biggest benefit of all.