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Mar 18, 2011

Accountability & Respect


or "nobody around here gets things done on time"

Category: General
Posted by: Cambron


If you think about it, those employees and teams that are able to avoid being accountable are redundant.  Their position in the organisation is no longer needed.

In the work place, accountability is the reasonable expectation relied on by someone else that you will achieve some ‘thing’ by a particular time and to a certain standard.  On the proviso that you have actively accepted the expectation or that you have not refuted or modified the expectation when you have had an opportunity to do so.

Going back to the opening paragraph, if you are able to avoid the reliance of others you are not accountable, therefore your position is redundant as it makes no contribution to the corporate team.

So why is accountability so important?  Organisations are a complex interaction of plans, processes, infrastructure, capital and the people that bring it all together.  Clearly, if one part of the system is not able to be relied upon the overall is less effective than it should be.  The whole system probably won’t disintegrate but incrementally it will wind down and become seriously less efficient as accountability is not enforced.  Others will take up the slack of those that consistently don’t deliver until something eventually breaks.

This is not to say that we blindly accept what we are told to do, it is always healthy to question and suggest better ways, however it is decidedly unhelpful to use the questioning as an excuse for not delivering.  Ultimately, accountability comes down to showing respect for your colleagues and the role that they are required to play.

So what are the accountability drivers?  They can be neatly defined as:

  • Goal alignment
  • Influence
  • Consequences
  • Workplace respect

Goal alignment is fundamental, without a clearly articulated and communicated mission, vision and associated strategies it will be impossible for teams and individuals to appreciate the important role and contribution that they can make to the greater good.  They will not be able to develop complimentary targets and processes to support their own work area let alone corporate goals.

Influence is required for teams and individuals to continually review and enhance the methods used to meet the necessary outcomes.  If a team is not functioning as well as required they might be fighting with a system or process that they are powerless to change and that is just not working.  This leads to frustration in all of us.

We should all have the opportunity to ask ‘why’ if we think unreasonable standards or timelines are being imposed, particularly if failure is the ultimate consequence.  If we can’t question we can’t contribute to positive change.

Consequence is often perceived negatively, it should equally be seen as a positive.  Ultimately you get what you reward.  If the budget papers are delivered on time or outcome measures are achieved take the time to acknowledge and congratulate the good work.  A simple acknowledgement impacts on the non achievers as well as the achievers.  If deadlines are missed, they should not be accepted without comment; questions should be asked as to why and how do we improve next time.  Repeated failure without cause should be reprimanded, if tolerated it will become a cancer that spreads through the entire organisation.

Workplace respect is a simple but powerful concept.  It is an understanding that we rely on each other to get things done, whether we are the CEO or an accounts officer we just can’t achieve without the help of others.  Disingenuous avoidance of accountability indicates that we don’t respect the contribution and effort of our work mates.

So far in this article accountability has been defined, we have indicated its importance and the fundamental drivers have been identified.  To take the next step and make accountability a part of your organisation’s culture is very much the responsibility of the CEO and senior management.  Like so many organisational positives this group’s ongoing influence by example is critical.  If they don’t ‘walk the talk’ no one will.

Senior management team members need to cooperate to ensure that their areas of responsibility are not only accountable to the needs of others but that deadlines and standards being set are reasonable and necessary.  They need to be wary of the cyclical game playing that occurs when past deadlines are repeatedly not met and new deadlines are then short dated to compensate, with a hope that the real and hidden target will be achieved.  Allowing this approach rewards the serial laggards and penalizes those that are committed to supporting their colleagues.

Similarly, senior management must be cognizant of the workloads and capacity of their own areas to ensure that their staff are not constantly being asked to stretch for goals.  This will be seen as a lack of support and respect that quickly has negative consequences and will only impact on the organisations ability to retain their most competent and loyal staff.

Gary Bourke

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