Accountability has gotten a bad rap because it’s been misused so often, and misunderstood even more. When you don’t practice regular, healthy accountability with people, you’re letting them off the hook. You’re really telling them “I don’t care about what we agreed to” at best…or “I don’t care about you” at worst.
Think about it. When people hold you to your commitments…they show they care. When you had that “tough love” conversation with a parent, coach, teacher, or family member, they were showing you that you mattered.
When you don’t hold people accountable, it’s easy for them to think that they don’t matter. A LOT of managers have “conflict avoidance” and see accountability as conflict (which it isn’t). So instead of doing anything, they just ignore the situation…which also isn’t accountability. Or they work around it. Also not accountability. So the initial problem is growing larger, day by day.
The costs don’t end there. When you don’t hold one team member accountable, the other team members may think they or their role doesn’t matter either. Because if you don’t hold Mark accountable for his job, and I pick up his slack, then I’m not important. I may stop caring about carrying the load and staying late if this isn’t important.
Another big way people confuse accountability is by thinking it’s just assigning clear actions or expectations. Accountability is the healthy way to follow up on assignments to show your care. Having clarity on who owns what, and when it’s due is just providing tasks in a complete way. What comes after that is accountability.
Be aware of your patterns with accountability and how you are – or aren’t – using this tool.
Wingspan partners with leaders around the world to strengthen their behavioral performance and communication. Our approach centers on creating more intentional outcomes by developing healthy behavior systems, more productive interactions, and more meaningful relationships.