Monday, September 24, 2012

Why is Accountability so Hard?

Over the last few weeks I have heard the following:

1) I wish our managers were more accountable
2) Our culture needs to move from entitled to accountable
3) One of our core values is accountability, but we still can't reach our goals and objectives

Why is holding people responsible and accountable for their actions/goals so hard?   It must be because organizations have a hard time persuading employees and managers to be accountable.

I guess, I have come to the conclusion that accountability is just plain hard to do.

That begs the question....why is that?

Here are some theories I have, please feel free to contribute:

1) Accountability requires difficult conversations sometimes and difficult conversations are problematic at work, so manager avoid having those conversations.

2) Goals are handed down to employees without any input or direction from employees so they do not feel they "own" the goals.

3) Alignment of goals is hard work.  Key systems like performance management and the feedback process have to be up to date and effective for alignment to occur.

4) It's the blame game.  Office politics and egos force managers/employees to point the finger rather than take responsibility for actions/lack of actions.

5) Accountability has not been a part of the culture.  In some organizations accountability is not a value that the culture contains.  Post recession companies have realized accountability is a must for survival and high performance.

Here is a question, I had just a few weeks ago:

What can be done to instill accountability if an organization is just starting to move in that direction.

Great question but a hard question.  I believe leadership has to tell a story of why accountability is so important and what is going to be different.  Employees find it hard to change if they don't know the reason for the change.

Next, the organizational infrastructure, processes, and practices have to be aligned for accountability.  This step is the hard part.  So for example, if the performance appraisal process has just been a "check the box" exercise, more emphasis and work has to be focused on performance management.

Successes need to be rewarded and communicated to send the message that accountability works.  Reinforcement of the message has to come often and consistently.

Accountability doesn't happen over night, it takes hard work and commitment.  It takes leadership modeling what accountability looks like on a daily basis.  It takes HR making sure goals and objectives are aligned and tracked.

Accountability doesn't just happen by's a process.
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