Accountability is a core concept In business and government. It is a way of working and living, even a necessary fabric of society.
Another word would be responsibility.
The military has developed it to a high degree.The chain of command focuses on accountability. In times of emergency and war everybody must do their jobs or there will be consequences.
It is the same in business and in our lives but with less drama. Nevertheless,, the health of any organization depends on people being accountable.
What are the characteristics of persons who are accountable?
- They are concerned for the general welfare and smooth functioning of the organization.
- They demonstrate an attitude of caring
- They do their jobs and more
- They take responsibility for their actions
They notice when something is wrong and they take steps to fix it.
They want to make the organization better
They will help where needed
They don’t pass the buck
This is a highly valued quality. For instance, it is what the public wants from politicians and stockholders from their companies.
At its most fundamental point it is admitting that you made a mistake and taking action to remedy the situation.Rather than hide something, bring it out in the open.
In a healthy organization, an honest mistake is not punished and the employee does not have to be afraid.
A healthy organization has this from top to bottom.
In a dysfunctional organization, others will try to shift the blame.
“It wasn’t my fault, it was him. He did it”
A person sees something wrong and walks right by.
“I didn’t want to get involved.”
There is a saying “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.” This illustrates the problem.
In the American business system, accountability means that one person ( usually) has to take responsibility. It may be the top boss. If a big mistake has been made, an honest boss will take responsibility.
“The Buck stops here”.
A sign on the desk of the President of the United States, Harry Truman. He pointed out that he took responsibility for what happened on his watch.
Other leaders, less courageous, may identify and punish a lower-level individual who actually made the mistake. A CEO will say “ the person who did this has been identified and will be punished”.
In sum, it is an attitude. It comes from the top. The leader can model and teach this behavior. A manager can instill it in his/her department.
A good healthy organization has plenty of accountability.