In the news of late, I keep hearing the word “accountability” used over and over. What are you accountable for? What are you not accountable for?
In manufacturing we use the same word while changing the adjective: Personal accountability. Team accountability. Leadership accountability. How do you use the word “accountability”? What’s your framework? In order to baseline our conversation here I looked it up in the dictionary and found this: the quality or state of being accountable; especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions
But how do you accept responsibility for your own actions if you don’t have a solid understanding of what you or your team are measuring against? How can you be accountable for your actions if you don’t have a solid grasp of what it is you are working toward? Accountability can become a slippery slope into finger pointing if you aren’t careful.
We all know that accountability should start with the understanding of what you are measuring against. For a team to “be held accountable” there must be a base line, a tether to a solid goal, and/or a metric that adequately communicates reality.
As leaders, our job is to identify what we are holding ourselves and our teams accountable for /against. We must:
- Comprehend the complete picture so that we can have the team work together in the right direction – setting them up for success.
- Understand the metric including all those pesky details influencing the metric. Knowing what your team needs to do to improve the metric, or what they can do to “meld” the metric, will ensure you ask the right questions to hold them, and more importantly yourself, accountable.
- Prioritize the metric so the team can make the correct trade-offs. (Note: I know it should go without saying but… Safety is never something that can be traded off. Never!)
- Sustain the metric by working with the team to remove barriers. If you don’t invest in the metric, spend money to remove barriers, and/or apply resources to move faster, your team will know it is just another “metric to pencil whip”.
Accountability is multifaceted and is made up of responsibility, actions, and decisions. Knowing your responsibility guides your actions and influences your decisions. Know your goal. Know your obligation. Own what’s yours.