Who is Accountable?

I was having breakfast with my friends Dave and Kelly over the weekend. As we often do, we set out to solve the world’s problems. We were speaking about integrity and how important it is to business. I asked the question, “When we all have different standards of what is acceptable, when does it go from being different to being out of integrity?” I was thinking about how often we experience colleagues that commit to a deliverable or a time line and then they miss it. Either something else comes up or they got too busy.

As I have tried to hold colleagues accountable in the past I often got a reply along the lines of, “Well you have it now (the deliverable).” Well yes , I do but it is late! In addition, we have missed a deadline for a client and even though the client was “understanding”, we broke a promise.  How many promises can you break before your client finds someone else?

Dave gave a good example from his training company.  He tells of an assignment that he had given out to his coaching class. They had two weeks to complete it and he gave them a 24-hour heads up. When one student was 45 minutes late, Dave asked, “Why should I accept this when it is clearly late?” The student was very upset; after all, he still got the assignment in. 

That led to some thinking about what I have observed over the last several years as I have interacted with a number of organizations.  It seems that our mutual tolerance for each others “less than best” performance has grown. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is just too much work to replace people that are pretty good. Or, is it due to HR compliance that we have to give people multiple chances and C players are good enough?

Here are some thoughts on how to help the Team remain accountable:

1.    As my Coach Tom says, “Set the Table.” That is set the expectations up front.
2.    While you have delegated, stay in touch.  By letting, them know you are aware of time and deliverable we keep it on their mind as well.
3.    When a deadline or deliverable is missed, let them know they missed and the consequences of the miss. That is what it cost.
4.    If they miss too many deliverables then they are not in the right place.

What do you see? Are people more tolerant of missed deadlines and commitments? Should we be? If so, where did accountability go in our business plan?

One Comment:

  1. Great article. Accountability, and for that matter responsibility seem to have gone the way of the buffalo. It happened to me AGAIN last week. I set up a breakfast meeting for the convenience of the other party. I drove 20 miles at 6:30 in the morning for the meeting. Guess what? They didn’t show up. When they were 10 minutes late I made the phone call to ask them where they were. “Oops, sorry. I forgot.” End of discussion.

    Everyone makes mistakes but this person said “sorry” in a less than convincing way, made no attempt to make it up to me, and now wants to reschedule for a time convenient for her.

    We seem to have taken tolerance to a whole new level. We are so patient and considerate of others that we have fundamenally eliminated personal accountability.

    Why did this person feel that this was not a big deal?

    Because she has been trained that way.

    And for that, we are all responsible.

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