The Straight Truth


What to do when accountabilty fails

In a recent seminar a participant whose CEO was in the room asked me this question: “What if my work product, including meeting a deadline depends on the work of someone who reports directly to the CEO and that person never provides me with what I need on time and he is not held accountable?” She added, “My performance evaluation is affected by something I cannot control, why are you (Linda) saying I am totally accountable for a) getting a poor evaluation and b) the project not being completed?”

The participant asked me the question privately, during break. And, there was a ton going on behind the question. What I probably should have said was – “Wow, that’s a really hard one, I don’t know what needs to happen in that instance.” But instead I asked, “Have you talked directly to the person who does not give you what you need?” The response, “Yes, and he basically told me, ‘tough, you are not the boss of me.’” So I asked, “Have you gone to the CEO directly about this?” The response, “No, if I did that, there would be retribution.” My next question, “Is the CEO aware of this person’s lack of performance that he seems to be allowing?” Answer – “yes.” And, I had to ask, “How long has this been going on?” Answer – “Three years.”

Here is how someone is totally accountable for a situation like this. Working for someone who will not hold someone else accountable is a choice. The CEO is not going to change. The person who does not give you what you need on time in order to do your work is not going to change. You accept a role in an organization where getting a stellar performance evaluation is not possible unless these individuals change and that is not going to happen. It is unfortunate that you are not told the straight truth which is “Your ability to do your work depends on others that will not be held accountable. Pay increases based on your performance are highly unlikely since your dependence on others who do not do their work to provide you with what you need, when you need it, will not be forthcoming. You will be paid to do your best, be frustrated, and continue to do your best.” Full accountability for the situation comes is this statement, “I have done what I can, I have talked to those I am willing to talk to, and I accept this role in exchange for pay.”

This viewpoint completely shut down the participant. I call it getting on “Planet What Is.” (pg. 21, The 85% Solution, How Personal Accountability Guarantees Success. No Nonsense, No Excuses). The participant wanted to tell me more about “Planet What Should Be” as others who were listening in nodded knowingly. My response to how it should be was the same as it always is…”You’re right it should be that way. You are right. However, being right isn’t getting the situation to be any different. It’s time to get your Definition of Success done to see if this is the place for you or if you can shift to full accountability for what you are choosing now.” That only resulted in more shut down, if there is such a thing.

Needless to say, this participant’s evaluation of the day was not positive but, for me, very instructive. I am humbled by different points of view, how difficult it is to accept total personal accountability, and what it takes to shift a mindset from “what should be” to “what is” with no need to be right or liked.

Right or wrong, the starting place, in my opinion, in the straight truth. From there, own it, act on it and answer for it.