I previously discussed the difference between responsibility and accountability, and delved deeply into what responsibility is on the job, and how it works. Now the tougher of the two concepts: what accountability really means and how to get there, in order to be a great manager. Once you understand how responsibility actually works, you can distinguish accountability because accountability has nothing to do with anyone else!
Being accountable is something someone decides to be. Good managers understand that they cannot make someone be accountable. That is only for the individual to accept and act on.
in contrast to:
I’ve discussed the concept of accountability multiple times previously (here, and here, for example).
Accountability is crazy tough. It really is. It is so tough because to be accountable is (1) to accept an outcome regardless of who did what (i.e., accountability is agnostic to blame), and (2) to decide to do something about a situation, whether or not it’s your assigned responsibility to do so.
Accountability – owning something totally and completely – is a BFD. But you must be willing to be personally accountable if you are going to be a good manager.
Accountability looks like:
It doesn’t matter how we got here. It only matters what we’re going to do next.
Morale among my direct reports is low due to the layoffs. I don’t make the decisions about who gets laid off, but I’m going to go out of my way anyway to try to create an open and supportive environment for my team in this uncertain time.
That’s a problem or issue that really matters to my clients. I know how to solve it, and I’m going to solve it.
My boss micro-manages everything I do, and it’s disruptive to how efficient I am in leading my teams. I’m going to figure out some creative solutions to get the boss feeling more involved and proactively create some additional visibility so I can get my actual job done better.
I don’t know why that customer has a thorn in their side about me, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve tried everything, but if I want this to be successful, I have to elevate the situation and get some help, even though I’d prefer to be able to find the magic solution to them liking me and resolving things on my own.
Good managers don’t indulge in a victim mindset about how or why issues or problems happen to them. Good managers are solutions-focused, and take it upon themselves to find those solutions. They definitely don’t point fingers.
This is how you opt for accountability.
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