I was 19. It was November 1984 and I was in my first leadership role, working in Luton, England. Every month we’d meet together as a team and the principle of accountability was front and centre – being held responsible for the success and failures of the month gone by. As an extremely young and enthusiastic team leader, I decided that I’d spice up the accountability reports! Not only did I hire an American Footballers costume, but I adopted the hype and persona of a typical player!! Yes, hard to believe that mild mannered old me, has an extrovert crazy streak running through me (thanks dad!!). Subsequently, I recall (and my journal entries confirm) that the monthly reporting session was a tremendous success, even although the numbers and KPI’s themselves weren’t the best!!!
Through many experiences over numerous years and in a multitude of leadership roles I’ve served in since then, I’ve learned all too well, that “It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” Moliere. Actions or lack of action even, almost always have consequences.
The dictionary defines accountability as: “Someone who is accountable is completely responsible for what they do and must be able to give a satisfactory reason for it” Accountability then has to do with one’s exercising his own will in making decisions and following a course of conduct. It implies self-initiative and a measure of self-reliance. But it requires more than the ability to act for oneself. It must be guided by a knowledge of true principles.
In my home, family, community and business life, I have learned that true principles of accountability, are essential for success. So what are these guiding principles of accountability?
- Take Ownership. No matter whether you succeed or fail, it is much, much better to take ownership of the responsibilities given to you. Simply stated, people want to know who is responsible for certain actions and who is accountable for the consequences of these actions. I’ve failed on numerous occasions, but I can also choose to pick myself up, dust myself down and get on with starting over.
- Build Trust. Little by little, day by day, follow up on actions, be responsible, live your personal values and do what you say you are going to do.
- Be Honest. We live in the most difficult of times and also the most amazing of times. It is absolutely critical to be truthful, honest, moral and ethical in all of your dealings at home, at work and in the community. To be anything different will cause you grief, heartache, misery, pain, leading ultimately to failure and despair.
- Have Fun. No matter how difficult the challenges may become (and oftentimes they will), carry with you a sense of humour that will allow you to see the bright side of things even on the darkest of days.
- Be Humble. In my recent article Humility vs Pride I suggested that “Humility is selfless not selfish. In fact I believe that humility is being authentic without any pretence or arrogance. It is really about being true to yourself and knowing your limitations, from the inside out.” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leadership-essentials-humility-vs-pride-daryl-watson?trk=pulse_spock-articles I believe that a humility builds loyalty and responsibility.
- Take Time. The most effective accountability moments are held one by one. Whether that is with your children in a personal interview, or with your boss or a subordinate in an important conversation. Be aware of the importance of taking time to do that. In Paterson etal’s “Crucial Conversations” there are numerous tips and ideas about how to make the most of those critical accountability moments.
My early attempts at motivational accountability in 1984, taught me valuable lessons about being present, in the moment and having some fun at the same time. Throughout the ensuing years, I’ve had to sit through some pretty tedious accountability interviews and meetings, some of my own doing too (only a few though)! But I’ve found that consistently following these simple guiding principles will build great relationships over the long term.