It is an important part of the our business lexicon. It is a value that many of us were taught by our parents — a guiding principle that is always with us as we go through life.
It is also an important part of your career brand, a powerful differentiator, if only youwill use it. And then live by it.
The problem is, so many people, all things considered, would just as soon avoid this idea. Good intentions, honesty, kindness to others, and other equally noble calculations should be sufficient to carry the day, they argue.
But those who are unafraid to passionately embrace accountability will shine because it goes hand in hand with confidence and competence.
Embracing accountability, and intellectually knowing that you will be held accountable are not the same thing. Embracing it means you talk about it in uplifting terms with your team, you personally model that behavior day in and day out as part of the culture of your company, division or department. Embracing accountability is certainly not the same as threatening people with consequences.
But with this powerful energy comes a very serious potential downside: if your actions fail to match your words, it can be a crushing blow.
A CEO once advised one of his up and coming management executives who had inherited a division that was almost completely devoid of operating policies, that instead of writing policies, he should leave well enough alone. If you write policies then you, too, will have to follow them. If there was ever an example of an interesting side step of establishing performance standards and accountability, that would be a good one. It seems the CEO believed less in accountability and more in flexibility.
Executives who establish a brand that incorporates concepts like servant leadership or other profound values including their faith, set a high bar for accountability. When their actions, or inactions, do not measure up to the image and standards they have set it can do irreparable harm to their credibility, their brand, their reputation and to the spirit of the people they lead. Everyone will know and the organization will suffer.
I am NOT suggesting that executives dumb down their brand standards. Quite the contrary. I am a big believer that executives should ramp up those values-based standards. I think they should emphasize transparency and their bedrock commitment to core principles of conduct, values, even their faith. When executives do that, they are making a powerful statement that can transform culture, enhance value, quality and service. The underlying message is trust: “… you can trust me to do the right thing for the good of our customers and employees.”
Accountability does not allow you to push back from those commitments when it is personally convenient or politically advantageous, or when, and how, serious issues or actions that violate the organization’s guiding principles are addressed.
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© 2019 John Gregory Self