November 5, 2013

Accountability is the binding strength of interdependent relationships at work. We simply must hold people accountable. But for accountability to be legitimate, to have integrity, accountability has to start with ourselves. We have to begin by holding ourselves accountable and being open to being held accountable by all our constituents.

The most effective leaders are clear in their expectations of others, and they consistently hold others accountable for those expectations. One of their expectations of others is to also be held accountable. “If you are not holding me accountable for my role as your leader, you are not assuming full responsibility for your legitimate role in our relationship.” For purposeful leaders and followers, that posture of accountability is enabling rather than threatening.

accountabilityAccountability should not be about “blaming and flaming” when things go wrong. It should be about helping our partners keep their promises and deliver acceptable if not impressive performance. In healthy work relationships, we want to help each other live up to our reciprocal expectations.

Accountability also means not looking the other way when it matters. When bad things happen at work, someone needs to step forward and say something. That someone is you, even if you know it might be painful. Say what needs to be said, and whenever possible, offer to assume responsibility for being part of the solution.

What do you think? After you watch this short video, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Brittany Silva says:

    I completely agree! Often in the workplace accountability is the most important principle to get right in order to effectively work together. In the positive and negative connotations of the word, we should all be honest about what we are accountable for and whether we met, exceeded, or fell short of those responsibilities. Creating an environment where we can safely admit this and similarly call others out on their accountability, is key. That way we can fix short-comings and/or praise exceptional work, because we know who was accountable and what the outcome was.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Brittany. Your thoughts add value to this conversation – thanks for sharing. Bret

  2. Tom Reeder says:

    Hi Professor-

    I understand your perspective on accountability in the general sense. For more than 20 years I have been driving a bit more precision into the accountability/responsibility discussion.

    Be it within internal processes (e.g., decisions), role sorts between manufacturer and channel partners, or through strategic projects… “who has the ‘A’ ” (singular accountability) is critical to successful business outcomes. Formally establishing the roles for accountability (A), responsibility (R), consult (C) and inform (I) is foundational to cutting through the fog of ambiguity I believe you touch on in your video. Your can read more about my point-of-view on this key management concept here


    Tom Reeder

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Tom. Thanks for watching the video and sharing your thoughts. Bret

  3. Rebecca Burns says:

    Dr. Bret – As always whenever I surf over to see what you’re talking about, you seem to be right on point with topics I like to deliver to my team. Love the concept of accountability and integrity being reciprocal, and will certainly develop this further. Your counsel has served me well. I love this concept, and Thank you.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Thanks, Rebecca! Bret