Promote accountability in your organization

N°195b – Synopsis (8p.) – Accountability
Promote accountability in your organization
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How can leaders get their teams to share responsibility for ensuring collective success?

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”, stated Barack Obama during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign. This now-famous quote expressed a powerful sense of accountability, in which we are responsible for our own destiny. The implied attitude is the diametrical opposite of passivity and the temptation to see ourselves as mere spectators or even victims of what happens to us.

How many leaders dream of being surrounded by people who feel jointly responsible for the fate of the company? At every level of the organization, some employees do indeed act according to this mindset. Take the factory manager who manages his profit center as if it were his own company, while adhering to the vision and values of the larger organization to which he belongs. Or the account manager who takes it upon herself to help out a customer in difficulty, above and beyond the call of duty, because she considers that ensuring customer satisfaction is a natural part of her job.

And yet, very often, only a small number of employees show a true sense of responsibility. When they run into problems, most people look for excuses to avoid having to challenge their usual practices, saying that the problems are caused by external factors completely out of their control. And paradoxically, many executives take this attitude as a matter of fact, considering that there is nothing they can do about it. Thus, a handful of people end up bearing the brunt of responsibility for the business and must drag everyone else along with them.

This is a big mistake, underline the authors, whose publications are analyzed here. Leaders and managers can do something to make people feel more accountable. What is more, it’s not a question of increasing the burden employees are expected to bear, because although some employees may be more comfortable being passive in the short term, this attitude ultimately becomes stressful and not very rewarding. Managers must therefore take it upon themselves to develop their team’s sense of responsibility, something many people actually crave deep down.

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