In a recent conversation with a good friend responsible for a financial services firm IT operation, the topic of accountability came up.
Accountability goes up in the organization and is never shared. Responsibility goes down in the organization and is shared. So in the case of my friend, she’s accountable for her function (the buck stops with her) and she fulfills her role through her responsible staff.
Simple, right? No.
Rather than accept accountability, some people seem to prefer to deflect, point to others, or blame the environment for an issue. They shun accountability, and are very uncomfortable when called to task. It’s like they believe deflecting is better.
Nothing is further from the truth.
Professional leaders can smell bullshit miles away. When someone is ducking accountability, the manager knows it and has to go through a teaching moment (which the individual inevitably finds uncomfortable) around how they need to accept accountability.
When someone steps up and says, “I own this,” or “I made a mistake,” the conversation takes on a completely different tone. It becomes collaborative, not corrective.
People shunning accountability put precious time into the blame game. They are not people making things happen, they are people where things happen to them. They are not leaders.
People who accept accountability and ownership for their function think and behave differently. They do what is right for their function. They address process improvement opportunities. They seek better ways of doing things.
They are the people leaders seek out and promote.