Has someone ever asked you to take ownership on a task, or maybe a mistake you created? If you haven’t, then you either take ownership of what you can control in life or someone isn’t giving you the right feedback in certain situations. How about to take accountability? What is accountability? Accountability is the strongest foundation of an organization’s culture. Is ownership and accountability the same thing?
Ownership is defined as the act, state or right of possessing something. Ownership can be the possession of both the tangible and intangible. Accountability is defined as the fact or condition of being accountable or responsible. However I don’t believe this definition to be very explanatory of what is means to be accountable or have accountability. The best definition comes from The Oz Principle: “A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary to achieve one’s desired results, to see it, own it, solve it, do it.”
As we can see, being accountable needs ownership. Although they are both two different meanings they need each other to make them work. If you own something you need to be held accountable for it. If you are accountable for something you need to have ownership.
In business, when we do not implement a culture of accountability we create an environment of finger pointing and blame. One full of excuses of why a situation happened and how it’s not their fault. This leads to a lack of knowledge of where the faulty behavior is coming from and does not allow management to coach to correct it. Let’s face it, none of us like it when the finger is pointing at us, or if a situation is our fault, unless it’s for a positive thing, mainly because most managers focus on the negative aspect. The “what is going wrong, or who make this mistake.” Rarely does management, unless you work for great leadership, give positive feedback. The “high fives for a good job,” kind of positive feed back. Yes high fives rule and they make you and other people feel good. But instead, we avoid any chances we can that put our character in a negative light and try to give the impression we do no wrong.
Here is the moment of realization: We have to look in the mirror and realize that we are responsible for the good as well as the bad and if we are constantly putting the blame on others or diverting the attention to malfunctions then we are hurting ourselves and the organization we work for. We prevent ourselves from learning from our mistakes and failures. A while back I wrote about how people should never look at failures as failures because then you are a failure. What a heavy thought. We as a whole should look as failures as opportunities to learn and grow. So in light of this idea we should change the way we perceive failure and come to understand that we do make mistakes and through those mistakes we create opportunities to grow. There is no perfect answer and companies and people alike would not exist unless we made mistakes and learned from them. This is what accountability is all about so there is no need to fear holding yourself or others accountable!
If you are a leader, you must know that the best way to teach someone is to lead by example. So if your example is to hold yourself accountable for your actions both good and bad then you will make a last impression. You will plant the seed (idea) in your team’s minds that this is the right way to behave. Yes accountability is a behavior. Once this seed is planted its your job to help the team grow it. Leaders grow this seed by situational coaching and follow up. Giving positive feedback and insight on how to perceive situations. Once you get an individual to be an accountable person, they then plant more seeds in their peer’s minds and then something unique happens. The team starts to align their thoughts and hold each other accountable, allowing you to be able to hold the team accountable as a whole rather than seeking out each individual. They are doing the work for you because this is how you act, this is the expectation you present, and they are bought in to the idea that everyone should be held accountable. It is a beautiful thing then you see someone do something incorrectly and watch another team member correct them and teach them how to do it the right way. There is no finger pointing, there is no blame, but there is “Hey, let me show you a better way to do this” or “This is the way this needs to be done. Let me show you and teach you why.” This allows your team to grow fluidly and fosters alignment. Always remember to teach the why. Without the why, people cannot buy into your ideas.
Remember our realization? Accountability starts with you. You have to take ownership of what you can control. The good and the bad. Understand that if you make a mistake, you must learn from it. Learn from other people’s good behaviors and their bad ones. It will help transform your character into a better one. Avoid falling into negative behaviors by developing will power to do the right thing, all the time, and developing your integrity.
Remember that in life everyone is a role model to someone. What kind of role model will you be? One that creates a foundation of accountability?
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