The Four Pillars of Accountability

June 18th, 2012   •   no comments   

Businesses are continually faced with many challenges.  Not enough time or money., too much competition globally and locally, too little innovation and creativity, too little available workforce talent, interest or expertise… This list certainly can go on and on. It’s amazing how any business can even hope to survive given all the factors that come to mind. Research is showing that the greatest drain on organizations’ success is accountability.

Accountability is more than an interesting topic for every company to toss around. It is a fundamental multiplier for success . A simple definition is the ability to account for one’s actions.

With some further research four words  consistently show up when defining accountability.  These four words serve as invaluable pillars to support accountability:

Responsibility – This is the first pillar in the foundation for accountability. Commitments have been made and our “duty now binds our course of action.”  To say we are responsible is NOT the same as being responsible. An offer is made, a job is offered, a contract accepted, a meeting is set, we have now have to take action. It’s more that shaking hands in agreement. It is about demonstrating every step of the way that every action is with ability, integrity and honor. Be proactive and do home to fully understand the strategy and objectives that are sought.Mutually commit to the main agenda or purpose of the role, the relationship.Prepare, prepare, prepare before every meeting, every day, every week, every quarter, every year.

Answerability –  Being willing and able to answer for decisions,  actions,  mistakes is the second pillar. When called for a status report, have facts and figures that support the good, the bad and the ugly.  It is better to admit that we don’t know, rather bluster,  blunder or blame through with excuses. Offering, in advance, information, feedback and summaries of the situation demonstrates a level of accountability that is not only respected, but is often actively sought out. I remember one executive was promoted because they were viewed as always offering answers and solutions , not just coming in with questions and problems.

Trustworthiness –  Trust is something that is earned. Our behaviors can build or destroy trust. Honesty and integrity are the linchpins that hold relationships, companies and communities together. Once trust is violated or challenged, it is imperative.  There is an old cliche’ which stills much merit – “My word is my bond.”  Think about the years and dollars that could and would be saved in legal fees, if people just stuck to their word.  Another huge element of trustworthiness is consistency.  In a market research study conducted in 2010, it was found that customers that perceived the business was trustworthiness also was a strong, statistically significant predictor of value. (Ralitza Bell, Australian Catholic University) Just doing what we say we are going to do can add significant value.

Liability –  This more than being legally bound. Ethics, morals, values and character are tremendous components of the individual psyche and organization culture.  Consequences need to be clear and consistent. Repaying a debt with dollars is often a small price to pay if we can maintain our character and sense of self. To “lose face” in many cultures is a tremendous price to pay. At the very least, an apology is certainly merited. apologize for the action, there is no need to apologize for being you (that actually becomes an excuse).

These four pillars for accountability –  responsibility, answerability, trustworthiness and liability – create a strong platform for work and life. Which leads to two questions:

  • What is the price we must pay for violating our honor and our word?
  • Are we willing to pay the price?

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