The Myths and Truths of Accountability.

992a61d8-8ebd-4af0-a23d-052164ccd500Accountability can be defined as; the quality or state of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

A quick observation of some myths and truths –


Myth #1 – People will think you are stupid if you say “I messed up”. – I have heard this a lot and it is totally based in fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of what others will think, fear of not getting that promotion, fear of (you fill in the blank). Fear is a paralyzing and crippling force that can destroy a teams ability to stretch itself beyond its current capacity, leaving folks stuck in doing things the same old way. Sometimes this type of fear is the result of an oppressive leadership model or a lack of maturity.

Truth #1 – People will respect you more when you have a sense of ownership, especially when things aren’t going well.- Think about every sports press conference where the team lost the big game. The coaches that garner the most respect are the ones that say, “It’s my fault, I should have put my players in a better position to win.”

Myth #2 – “They will never trust me again if they know I made that mistake, I just won’t say anything.” – Once, again this is a fear based reaction to the human predisposition to make mistakes. We all do it. I have learned more about rules in my life by breaking them than any textbook or class could teach. The truth always comes out and by then, it’s too late to realize the following truth.

Truth #2 – People will trust you because they know you are not afraid to “fess up”. – It is a much harder thing to trust a person who lies to you than one who tells the truth. By consistently holding integrity as a value and practicing it daily, it becomes part of your normal pattern.

Myth #3 – People who distance themselves from problems are often seen as high performers, with unblemished records. -People who do this are really viewed as individuals more concerned with personal glory than truth. They are not their brother’s keeper. They are folks whose purpose is to shine a light on themselves as opposed to helping the team out of trouble. This type of person thinks no one knows their heart, but in reality, they are the most transparent type.

Truth #3 – People who distance themselves from issues are often viewed as cowardly and not “leadership” material. -Do you want to be in the foxhole with the person that says, “hey we’re in this foxhole together, let’s make a plan” or the person that says “hey, I need you to take my place in this foxhole. I’ll go let the boss know you’re here.” Leaders come from all levels in the organization. Folks that hide when it’s time to take the heat, or otherwise deflect the flames of fury will not earn the respect of any “true” team.

Myth #4 – Accountability comes from the top down. – We must hold our folks accountable is a mantra often heard in leadership meetings, but is sadly misunderstood, especially without the correlating truth.

Truth #4 – Accountability is best when it goes up and down. – How can you expect to hold folks accountable, if they can’t hold YOU accountable? Remember that old saying, walk the talk? No one will take rules, compliance with regulatory agencies or documentation seriously if you don’t. No one should be walking past issues, period.

Myth #5 – “Holding folks accountable is just a way of getting others in trouble, I’m no rat!” -People may get in trouble if we find a glaring issue, but that’s not the purpose for accountability. Accountability, very simply, ensures that the expected behaviors are adhered to at all times within the culture. In addition to this, consider that not every issue needs to be brought to light in a way that embarrasses people. Sometimes a gentle nudge is just what a person needs to get moving in the right direction.

Truth #5 – Holding folks accountable is how leaders set expectations. – By being present in the field, not accepting mediocre or subpar performance, using the proper level of correction and being an example, leaders set behavioral expectations. Leaders are found on all levels (first year employee on up to General Manager) and it is up to each one of us to realize that WE hold the key to success and the ability to create a culture that is able to sustain safe, stable, reliable operations with predictable outcomes.

Final thought to examine on your own.

One of the most powerful lesson’s I’ve ever learned about accountability, is that within it, lies the ability. As soon as you blame others for your issues, you give away the ability to fix those issues.

Your current position in life is a direct result of every choice you have ever made. Right or wrong, good or bad, you are exactly who you have lived your life to be. Understanding that is true accountability, right?

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