Archive for the ‘ Accountability ’ Category

Accountability, why it’s not a bad or scary thing.

Somewhere along the way, many learn that accountability equals discipline (bad and scary), which could not be further from the truth; and that holding someone to expectations was a difficult task.

I have recently had a variety of experiences personally and professionally that have left me contemplative about this topic.  My hypothesis is that people fail to set clear expectations of self and others and in general are afraid to hold each other to standards or defined levels of performance – accountable for the actions / results they individually generate or the situations they create.

On a personal level I listened, in a group setting, to a friend’s therapist provide a gallon of excuses to explain the person’s behavior; never laying any framework that decisions the person made actually contributed to the situation they were in, or it was going to be their future decisions that  determined the outcome of the story.  It made me think the question – if you are given excuses or a way out by a person in an authority position, how will you ever hold yourself to a higher standard, and perform at a level consistent with your ability level?

I have worked with a “sales professional” who has had an incredible career for many multinational corporations and personally sold tens of millions of dollars of goods and services for those organizations. I told him that I “expected” him to do three things and set a date for the follow-up.  None were outside the scope of his role in the organization, difficult or overwhelming for his current workload.  I was met with hesitation, reluctance and anger.  He questioned why I dared “expect” anything from him.

In any relationship don’t we all have expectations of the other’s performance?   Whether in our personal or professional lives we all expect people to behave in a certain manner.  When they exceed those expectations we thank them appropriately, when they fail we should let them know they failed and what outcome was caused by that failure.  While we finally agreed that it was okay to have an expectation of each other in every situation, the business conversation was nonetheless distracted by this temporary chasm and tense situation caused by me “expecting” a level of performance from a peer.

Expectations are the foundation of accountability.  It is impossible to hold oneself or another person accountable for any task, result or situation without first setting a clear expectation of performance.  I might expect that I will get up and go running in the morning.  There are consequences to meeting or not meeting that expectation.  I might expect that my employees behave in a manner consistent with my customer expectations.  There are consequences to meeting and exceeding those expectations.  If I begin my expectation setting naming all the reasons that I might fail, those expectations  aren’t really expectations to perform, but loose goals for performance.  “I hope I …”

Excuses can be used to get yourself out of trouble later, don’t waste them at the front end of a situation instead of setting a clear measure for performance that we call an expectation.  Set clear expectations then give all you can to make it happen.  And when it does:  celebrate, when it doesn’t happen – face the consequences, remain accountable, regroup and go again.

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

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