When in Doubt, Don’t ‘Shirk’ Accountability!

Accountability, it’s nearly a universal trait that is sought after by employers, co-workers, customers, employees.  Employers seek out employees who will take ownership of their work as well as their mistakes and drive their organization’s success. Co-workers look for accountability in their teammates to take responsibility for their work and do their part to drive the team forward.  Customers expect it in the companies they patron, especially from the front line employees in which they interact.  Employees seek it out in employers, expecting them to follow through with the commitments they have made to their employees and customers.

Yet, it amazes me to see how many people throw personal accountability out the window when trouble is on the horizon.  Maybe its in conflict with that strong sense of self-preservation instilled in each of us from a young age.  Or, maybe some just feel its easier to let someone else take on that weight.  Let’s face it, taking on accountability comes with a certain amount of risk that some are not comfortable owning.  When we take accountability we are saying “the buck stops here”, with me this sinks or swims! My examples hit on individual accountability but this applies just as much to teams, companies, organizations, etc.  When accountability is confidently expressed there is for sure risk, but there is also a sense of reassurance that is exuded by that individual that rubs off on those counting on them.  Co-workers, employers, customers begin to worry less around this person, because they know come hell or high water they can count on them to own the outcome and if its unfavorable they will do what they can to make it right.  They won’t point the figure elsewhere or throw coworkers or other teams under the bus to save themselves.

Those who are accountable don’t just do so when things are going well, they take on that risk even when things don’t go according to plan, and by doing so they problem solve to make it right.  I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t feel that this isn’t an important value in an individual.  But I have regularly seen people shed accountability, when they feel a project going south or fear their organization is looking to reduce headcount.  It always amazes me to see this flight mechanism kick in.  On one hand I understand the fear of not wanting that target on your back, but on the other I would think being that individual or organization willing to step up would also say something about your character.  It should say, “hey, I may not get everything 100% correct, but you can always count on me to take ownership and do my best to make it right.”  If an organization or coworkers don’t find value in this, then is this the place you really want to be?  Is it an organization you feel good about giving your business?  Likely not.

If nothing else, take a moment and think about the last time you worked with a coworker or had an experience with an organization that took accountability.  Then think about how that made you feel about the person.  More times than not you will have a positive feeling.  You’re more apt to give them the benefit of the doubt.  You are going to feel more at ease knowing they are stepping up and not going to throw someone under the bus if things don’t go well.  Now that you have the feeling.  Focus on it.  Isn’t that how you would want others to feel about you or your organization?

About the author: Heath

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