I’ve been thinking about accountability a lot lately, and what it means. The word “accountability” is used often but true accountability is hard to find.
Accountability is the understanding of and responsibility for the impact of the decisions we make and the consequences for our organizations. It comes from the presence of trust and respect and the absence of fear. When a leader is trusted and trusting, all the players know where they stand. This builds the secret sauce holding an empowered and cohesive team together.
Ultimately, we are responsible; we are accountable for our decisions and actions creating an outcome. Hopefully, our decisions and actions will produce the intended outcome. But what happens when we get it wrong?
What happens when trust is undermined? Fear finds its way in. Fear of failure, fear of consequences. Accountability means more than being willing to take the blame; it means owning it, cleaning up the messes the situation caused. It means proactively working toward an outcome with a plan that acknowledges what went wrong. It means accepting responsibility and dealing with the cause and effect relationships to make it right. The time to build the trust and feelings of accountability is when decisions and changes are made, not when the steaming pile of our mistake is in front of us.
It means cleaning up the mess and making it right before it is tracked so far into the corporate carpets that there is no stain remover that will fix it. It means cleaning up your messes. Poop happens.