Accountability: A Great Way to Develop Teams

I read an article about accountability recently where the author made me stop and think about how I use the word accountability.  The essence of his article was the tendency for leaders to use the word accountability more often than not in a negative way.

When used the word often conjures up images of being punished, reprimanded, written up or given a warning.  Rarely, do leaders use the word to mean develop their peopleLeaders also tend to use the word responsibility interchangeably with the word accountability.  Yet, these are two different words.

Accountability is more than punishment.  It is more than getting someone to own up to what went wrong. Accountability refers to an outcome or set of results that cannot be shared.  It is a duty taken on that has an individual assigned to account for the outcomes or results from one or more.  This is the person with whom the buck stops!

Responsibility on the other hand can be shared. One or more persons can be held responsible for specific tasks, actions or duties.  The subtle, yet powerful difference between the two as defined here is results/outcomes vs. tasks/actions.

This is why accountability cannot be shared, one person may be relieved of it and passed on to another person with whom the answers lie for the desired outcomes.

Responsibility on other hand can and is often shared as it’s more around what needs to be done to facilitate the outcomes for which the lead person is held accountable.

Here’s why I believe taking an accountability approach to leading is a great way to develop direct reports.  If leaders look past the negative associations assigned to the word accountability, and instead see the leadership potential it offers, I believe more leaders would take this way of coaching and developing their direct reports.

Imagine your most junior direct report being held accountable for the desired outcome of a specific yet skill-appropriate task? This employee would definitely grow in more ways than one can imagine!

The nature of accountability means one has to stretch and grow in order to achieve desired outcomes.  Here’s what I mean-accountability requires:

  1. Working with others to achieve the desired outcome
  2. Reporting to more senior level leaders on the status of the assignment
  3. Digging deep into one’s own reserves to rise to the task
  4. Growing stronger and more confident in their skills-technical and interpersonal

The benefits to be had from using accountability vs. responsibility as a tool for developing direct reports are numerous. Leaders who look for ways to help their direct reports shine-from the most senior to the most junior- would benefit greatly from using this powerful yet simple approach- hold them accountable.

Phyllis’s purpose is to support organizations by delivering consistent value to their customers & shareholders by developing purposeful employees.  Our webinars introduce you to the processes you need to use on a daily basis to grow your team.

Here’s to loving how you live, work and play!

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