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Taking Responsibility, Being Accountable: A Question of Competence and Reliability

30 second summary:

We know from clients that “accountability” is one of the most sought-after behaviours in staff. We also know that most people in business crave responsibility. How can we marry-up these two “wants”?

This article explores the conditions that are necessary for people to step up, take responsibility and be fully accountable in their roles.

Taking responsibility – currently identified as one of the biggest skill gaps - is about courage to be accountable and the conditions that need to be put into place for people to step up and be responsible and accountable.

Cora Lynn Heimer Rathbone

From years of client engagements, I know that “accountability” is also one of the most valued behaviours in staff.

Many clients have asked: “Can you get our people to be accountable for their work and for following-through on decisions we’ve made?” At the same time many rising leaders have said: “When will I get my remit and be trusted to deliver great results?” (Both quotes are verbatim😊)

Bottom-line is that most people in business today want and crave responsibility. What they don’t want is to be scapegoats or doormats.

Organisations in which people embrace responsibility/accountability are those that ensure that:

  1. Responsibility is meaningful, developmental, value-adding and includes a degree of fun. Especially for millennials and Gen Zs, these points are very important.
  2. People have the skills and resources to do justice to their assignment, and chances of success are greater than the risk of failure. If in doubt, most people are more fearful of failure than excited by opportunity.
  3. Reward is fair for the effort required. Effort drives performance which delivers rewards – and connections between all three “factors” needs to be clear for people to be motivated to rise to the challenge.
  4. People have the autonomy to say “I do it my way”. If not, and they fail, how can they be held accountable? This appeals to both autonomy and fairness – two of five factors known to be important motivators for all.

Without taking authentic responsibility away from individuals and teams, do your organisations create the above environment for real responsibility, accountability and success – especially in this time of COVID?

Cora Lynn Heimer Rathbone

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