Everyone can be a leader in their own right, and everyone can also be accountable. Accountability in corporations is a place that many fear to tread; it is the proverbial place where the buck stops, where answers are required and there is willingness to accept full ownership. Evolving workplaces have slowly been edging towards this level of accountability for some time, gradually moving over the edge from the known to the unknown. Some crawl over edges, some need to be kicked, some prefer to be gently invited and guided. Either way, it takes time to cross an edge and move from the known of responsibility into a relative corporate unknown of healthy accountability. Yet ironically any unknown can be loaded with potential, possibility and growth opportunity. So why do we not always gallop towards maximised corporate accountability on all levels of organisations?
Accountability allows both celebration of success and acceptance of shortfall. To increase real accountability and ownership, we must turn around the acceptance of shortfall from a failure, a blame game or loss of face to a form of confusion, stress or conflict that offers a new growth opportunity, begging the question: what is trying to happen here? Therein lies the answer. Why not work with accountability as a process and dig deep into its inputs, as these are the key to continuous adaptation, change, growth and improvement. Importantly, a leader moving towards accountability will question their own inputs before those that are external and out of their control.
For example, if doing the laundry does not result in clean clothes, is it the quality of the clothes, powder, machine or water? Or even the order of the inputs that offer opportunity to work with, develop and change? In business, the desired state of increased or full accountability, with people applying efforts into the business as if it was their own, may have inputs along these lines:
How do I feel about what I’m doing?
Job roles can fit anywhere on a spectrum that ranges from “working for something to do” through to “doing something that matters”. Simultaneously, our attitude can also be influenced by the amount we feel our efforts are contributing to a grander plan, a bigger picture or an end outcome. A sense of belonging, contribution and importance is embedded into the human structure of needs.
How do I feel about who I’m surrounded by?
Whether I do, or whether I don’t, I have an effect on the system I work with. As with workplace systems such as production lines, cause and effect exists; it also exists with human systems. Evolved beings consider another team player as a cohort and not a reason for fault. They invest in the cohort and build mutual respect and trust. If breakdowns occur an evolved person would look for opportunity in the conflict, rather than naming, blaming and shaming others.
How willing am I to be an active partner of the environment
As isolation rarely breeds success in business, what is your give-take ratio regarding the environment? Is the corporate environment something that we reap from or we co-create and give back to? When something does not work for you, how willing are you to air the grievance and ask for feedback or support? One benefit of process work is that when results are not achieved, in this case accountability, each input has variables within that can be changed to contribute more positively to the end result.
The essence of ownership
A level of accountability is also heavily influenced by a truth or gut feeling for each person. It’s often a spontaneous response, one that steers an individual towards or away from a job, profession or commitment. This is when someone simply knows on an intuitive level that something is right or not. What level of importance should the concept of accountability carry during any recruitment process?
Debbie Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture.
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter