Written By: Pamela Erskine
If you look up the word accountability, the definition indicates that you are answerable to others which means that you need to be able to justify and explain your decisions and actions.
Using the dictionary definition, you could merely point a finger at another group, peer, or team member as an explanation – especially if something goes wrong – but blaming others really isn’t an explanation or a justification. You took the action or made the decision. Others may have provided data which contributed to your decision to pursue a course of action but ultimately, it was your choice.
Many IT leaders will talk about their cultural foundation of accountability yet the actions that occur every day do not support their belief. Departments and team members point a finger at each other when something goes wrong and it is an acceptable practice. It is a culture of blame which ultimately affects the success of their IT related initiatives and morale.
How do you stress accountability in the organization?
First – let’s dispel the myth that being accountable or holding people accountable means someone will be placed on disciplinary action or even fired when something goes wrong. While this may occur, it is rare.
When you take accountability to the next level, it becomes an exercise in learning. Yes, you have to answer to others for your actions but when something goes wrong, if you own the issue and attempt to learn from it, you will ultimately win the respect of others.
Rather than blaming others, ask yourself how you could have changed the outcome or what you could do in the future to avoid a similar event. If you are a leader, when someone begins blaming a peer or another team, turn the conversation around. Ask them how they could have changed the outcome or prevented the issue? Bring the conversation back to the individual’s contribution and their own actions. Stress to them that they can’t change others but they can control their own actions.
As a leader in any organization, if you allow blaming, your response is sending a message that there is an ‘easy out’ when things go wrong. Even if you agree with the person that is placing blame, if you focus on asking them how they could have changed the outcome rather than continuing to allow a focus on ‘the other person/team’, you will encourage team members to be introspective which encourages them to learn and take action in the future.
When something goes wrong, wouldn’t you rather have someone come to you with a plan of action? By encouraging accountability and asking what an individual can do to change the outcome or prevent the issue, you are encouraging individuals to take positive actions in the future.
Practicing and encouraging accountability as a learning opportunity rather than an exercise in blame leads to a more productive work environment.
Take accountability to the next level – add the learning component to the definition. You will be pleasantly surprised by the result.