Blog #579 Being Accountable

Being Accountable

“Holding one’s feet to the fire”

The link today starts with this story (is it somewhat akin to your work):

“It’s a common story. You end a strategic meeting. There are several initiatives on which everyone agrees are important to complete by the end of the quarter. Everyone at the table says they will contribute to get it all done, but when the end of the quarter arrives very little of the list actually got accomplished. It’s not that these were bad people or that they didn’t work hard. In fact they were likely all highly responsible members of the team. The problem was that no one was actually accountable for making sure the initiatives were complete.”

In business circles, there generally is a ‘boss’ and almost always some kind of annual review.  In that case, accountability happens. It might be like this: “Hey White, you were to accomplish XYZ this quarter and you got none that done.  What do you have to say for yourself?”

I stammer out “I just didn’t get to it Ms. Boss”!!

The boss asks back “And why not?  What came in the way of getting XYZ done?”

In looser organized companies, there might not be a person to check on how things are going – and the people are not being held accountable.  That might be like this: “Hey White, you were to accomplish XYZ this quarter and you didn’t get that done.”

I answer: “That’s right, I was working on other projects and those projects, although nice, were not of a high enough priority to jump into my work schedule”.

Boss replies “I understand” and walks away.  

In my annual reviews in the past, there were three parts:  

-1 What did you get done this year?  (from last year’s plan)

-2  What is your plan for next year?

-3  What resources are you going to need to get your new plan done.

Depending on the circumstances, it might be that  the priorities changed, that a new assignment superseded the old assignment.  (I can see that in the military – a conflict broke out in southeast Asia that caused a major shift in our plans and resources).  In technology that can happen as well – upper management opted for a brand new CRM system and that changed the direction. BUT … in those cases, a person should still be accountable for the assigned duties.  

Accountability can occur in other situations.  When raising children to be responsible people, parents assign them duties – like take out the trash, sweep the floors, run the vacuum, take your younger brother to his Cub Scout meeting, etc.  

If a parent was to just say “That is okay”, the child would probably take advantage of the situation and just let duties and responsibilities drop away.  

Are you accountable to somebody?  Are you responsible to yourself? What if you don’t get done what you have assigned to yourself (such as losing weight, stopping smoking)?  Do you just pass it off? In such cases, maybe you need a ‘nag’ to be accountable to. It might be better NOT to be a spouse – maybe a close friend.  “Hey White, you said you were going to lose weight this month and you gained three pounds. What are you going to do about that?” If you are really serious about this you need to be accountable to somebody!!  The statement at the top “Holding one’s feet to the fire” means somebody is keeping you on track.

What do you think?


Posted by Bruce White

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