Linda recently did a very pointed Q&A interview about her take on personal accountability and how to incorporate this vital concept into a company’s culture. We thought we would share this interview in its entirety with Linda’s loyal readers. Enjoy!
My passion about personal accountability ultimately came from wanting to understand why it was that when something went well, a “leader” saw himself or herself as totally accountable; but when things went wrong, a leader became confused about accountability and began finger-pointing and blaming. When I was in the news business as a radio broadcast journalist, I saw the lack of accountability over and over again from “leaders.” And yet, they still seemed to get the reward or payout. That fascinated me. Now, I see a lack of personal accountability being rewarded more than being personally accountable. A lack of personal accountability is having a detrimental impact on our businesses and society in general.
Businesses often claim to be results-driven, but in my experience, they are activity-driven. Many managers reward activity, not results. Employees are held to account for activity, not results. Individual departments may hit their goals; but if the overall result is not achieved, the excuses, finger-pointing, and blame are plentiful. It drives the CEO crazy, but the CEO fails to see how he or she enables and even encourages finger-pointing and blame instead of accountability for results in a way that is developmental and not punitive.
My brand is “The Straight Truth,” and that means I am committed to the success of my clients as they define it. To that end, I’ll tell them where the lack of accountability is, even if the source is them. Beliefs, attitudes, practices, and protocols make up the culture of an organization. The culture is personal and comes from the top. I tell my clients what those close to them won’t or what other consultants can’t. I deliver the straight truth in my consulting and keynotes. Most people call it “refreshingly direct”.
My response would be, “You’re right.” Then I would ask, “If everyone in your leadership team were more personally accountable starting tomorrow, would that be desirable to you?” If the response is “yes”, I ask “Why?” Their answer usually results in me getting hired because their answer explains the gigantic benefit personal accountability at the leadership level provides to the organization. If the response to my question is “no,” then this leader’s approach to accountability is likely not a fit with what I do. They probably experience accountability as “hammer down” and punishing, when accountability is really a powerful personal characteristic hiding in plain sight.
It’s important to understand that a leader who commits to personal accountability as a core value in the company need not “convince” employees that the commitment is real. Commitment is a moving target. You are committed until you are not. You can only demonstrate personal accountability, you cannot mandate it in a corporate-wide training. Leaders get zero wiggle room in their personal accountability if they want the value to be realized in the company from the top down. It is wise to be skeptical of “accountability training” that is likely to end up as corporatespeak or “lip service.” If personal accountability doesn’t start at the top, it doesn’t start at all – and the best (and usually most accountable) people leave. I often address the reality employees face when they discover that they are hard-pressed to find accountability in the company culture. I motivate people to avoid using other people as their excuse not to be totally personally accountable for their success at work. When the message of personal accountability is internalized and utilized, it changes lives and results whether the leaders change or not.
The number one reason is usually that they are more concerned about themselves than the employees or the success of the company. Other reasons include people who:
Some managers or leaders love to create “being needed” so they can “rescue, fix, and save” instead of holding people accountable. Weakness in holding others accountable is a failure to see that treating people like they are not capable is demeaning. Working around them or not being straight with them about what is expected is a race to the bottom.
Managers can introduce personal accountability to their staff/team/group by sharing their personal motivation for their own change and asking for support. It is vital to give permission to subordinates, peers, and colleagues to “hold me accountable.” This starts with the most accountable of behaviors that we all want such as, “I will not talk badly about others but will instead take the problem to the person I’m having it with. I’ll be on time. I will own my results, good or bad, and not make excuses.” Asking for support and providing permission to call out when behaviors are not aligning with the commitment to be personally accountable are the best and most credible start.
A company or organization that does not embrace the concept of personal accountability will be more expensive to run. A lack of accountability costs time and money. Every organization knows that. A lack of personal accountability costs time, money, engagement, retention, diversity, ownership for results good or bad, and ultimately the spirit and soul of an organization. In my keynotes, I touch on that place in every single one of us that can activate and self-empower to a level of personal accountability that lowers stress, increases productivity, and boosts job satisfaction. Knowing how to actualize and guarantee your success is the stuff of inspiration, motivation, insight, and ultimately personal accountability.