Awareness, Accountability and Responsibility, Part 2

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Awareness, Accountability and Responsibility, Part 2

I have said before that the three pillars of performance are awareness, accountability and responsibility. We cannot fix, improve or develop something of which we are unaware. Once we are aware, then the role of accountability becomes important. Accountability, in this context refers to the link between cause and effect. We live in a world of cause and effect. Things happen as a consequence of something that has caused that thing to happen. We are where we are as a cumulative consequence of every decision that we have ever made. Being aware of the role of cause and effect is what accountability is about. Understanding and accepting our accountability is important. It is the opposite in many ways of blame. Blaming passes the accountability to someone else, or to something else; it might be the government, the competition, our parents or the universe. Blaming is an interesting concept because blaming lets us off any and all accountability that we should bear. Blaming the traffic for being late for an appointment is a cop out. The truly accountable truth was that we should have left earlier. We can’t do anything about the traffic but we could have done something about our departure time. So often the language we use revolves around blame. The market has changed, the competition has increased, costs have gone up, it isn’t very clear, are all examples of blame statements. Which all have the effect of absolving the speaker, or the thinker from any accountability. Perhaps we were slow to react to the movement of the market, We haven’t maintained our competitive advantage, I have failed to contain costs, I am unable to understand this might be more truthful and accountable versions of the real situation. By changing our language from blame to accountability we start to open up the possibilities of being able to do something different and therefore having different outcomes. The language of blame infers that the problem, or the cause, is ‘out there’ and whenever we think the problem is ‘out there’ we give ourselves an excuse for not being able to do anything about it. The attitude of accountability realises that no matter what the situation ‘out there’ might be, there is always something ‘in here’ that could change to improve things. I often refer to the language of blame as being ‘below the line’ and the language of accountability as being ‘above the line’. As human beings we get to choose, every minute of every day whether our attitude is going to be one of blame or one of accountability. Blame is an easy place. Blame says that it is nothing to do with me. Blame says it is someone or something else’s fault. Blame says I can’t do anything about it. No one ever improves with an attitude of blame. An attitude of accountability is different. An attitude of accountability asks, what can I do? What is my part in this? How can I adapt my approach? In what way can I change to ensure a different outcome? If what I am doing isn’t working what else can I do that will work? That is why accountability is the second of the three pillars of performance. It is about recognising that link between what we do and the results that we get. The best news about accountability is that it is a choice, and once we are aware that it is a choice it means that our attitude is entirely in our own hands. There is no one else to blame! How ironic.

Some clients have asked that I append some reading recommendations to my weekly blog. I hope you get value from the books I recommend. The books are mentioned at random and will have no relationship to the blog above.
A Stake In The Outcome by Jack Stack
This follow up to The Great Game of Business talks about building a culture of ownership within the business. Full of pithy insights and aphorisms this unassuming book is very deep. Phrases and observations like ‘Individualism is the enemy of performance’ are scattered through the book like treasure, just waiting for the reader to discover them and dive deeper. This is definitely a book that merits reading and re-reading.

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