If I’ve heard it once I have heard it a thousand times, a senior manager lamenting over the lack of accountability in his or her workforce. Let’s just stop and think about it for a moment. I like a good challenge, I bet many people do, especially when it involves an opportunity to develop a skill, learn something new, make a contribution or be part of some larger accomplishment. But I am not looking for opportunities to be made to look incompetent, held up as the reason why something failed or in some way have my reputation damaged because I took part in some workplace activity that did not meet expectations or realize projected results.
If you want me to be accountable, give me a choice about my participation, allow me the courtesy to say no. Don’t ask me to do something then leave me feeling like I am on my own once I have made my commitment. I want it to be understood that if I say yes I don’t want the outcome to be viewed as the sum total of my accomplishments. Don’t ask for my accountability and then act like you can’t trust me anymore when I don’t come through.
I want my commitments to any result to be viewed as part of an ongoing relationship that will have its ups and downs but is viewed as something larger than the sum of its parts and no part is large enough to cancel out the rest. I want there to be recognition for simply stepping up to the challenge.
If you ask me to do something let me ask for what I need to produce the result in return, don’t let this be a one-way conversation. Understand that once I say yes you are still responsible too. Understand that my commitment is not a duty, unless we have a previous agreement I owe you nothing until it is negotiated in real time.
I do not want an open-ended job description with the dreaded phrase, “and other duties as assigned” tagged on at the end. How insulting. What the hell! Would you agree to that? I didn’t think so.
And how do you understand accountability by the way? If I were to guess based on observation I’d say that you mean who will get the blame when things don’t go as planned. Not a very attractive game by any means, at least not for a person with any amount of self-respect.
Now if we are speaking of a relationship built on the notion of win/win, you have my attention. If you are saying that I will have a say in how things go it gets even more attractive. Tell me you’ll be there when the going gets tough and I want to know where to sign up. Say it my choice and I am already on it. Let me decide how it gets done and my head starts to swim. If you let me see it as a game I am bound to go above and beyond. When it all falls apart and you ask me what I have learned I know this is the place I never want to leave.