No surprise, we play a role in the lack of accountability in others. Below are five ways we each fail in driving accountability.
1. When someone on your team is perceived as not accountable, it spreads like cancer through a team. On my team, we often say the words "we just can't trust them to do that". If you know someone is likely to not help you the way you want to be helped, it's easier, with a GIANT sigh, to do it yourself then it is to hold them accountable. That is awkward, and we like to brush it off by saying it takes too long. The plague spreads. Be clear and reinforce your expectation. If you don't get what you want, have the difficult conversation as soon as possible.
2. I recently shared some feedback with an organization we partner with. This was feedback no one asked for. As one of their key vendors, I thought they'd want to know how we could make our hand-offs on both sides clearer. But I never asked them what they thought about the issues, or even if they thought there were issues. The response I got was respectful, carefully written and clearly 'proved' that they had done everything correctly on their end.
3. Projects create a great breeding ground for avoiding accountability. Both the Project Sponsor and Project Manager can have accountability issues. Executive Project Sponsors are often unclear what their role is on a project. Depending on their personality, he or she may either micromanage the project or disappear until the end with the famous words "Make it SO!" The project manager may think of the sponsor as a dumping ground for unsolvable problems, as in "Wa-wah I don't know what to do...". A great executive sponsor, as a great leader, knows how to hold the PM accountable to the role they play, while coaching and providing governance. A good project manager is looking for coaching, mentoring and political support.
4. From the recent studies of Emotional Intelligence (see April workshop with author, Karl Mulle, below), we know that stress can drive brain protecting fight, flight and freeze behaviors. Today's organizations create an environment that, if you CHOOSE, you can be constantly busy and never done. "We should do something about that..." is a meeting statement that seems like you are accountable, but you're really hoping it's someone else that gets the actual work. Lack of explicit action with names and dates becomes a comfortable way to pretend to collaborate without any accountability. Choose to manage your work. First calm your brain, then be real.
5. What the heck are you doing? Do you know what your base is - your vision, mission, value? Map your personal to your business strategy, which maps to tasks and projects. Use your base and strategy to prioritize your attention. Remember the basic Covey Quadrants - focus on what matters. Be accountable to yourself.