Rewarding "not being accountable" more than being accountable lies at the heart of what ails us. How early do we learn about personal accountability, if ever?
Common Sense Isn't So Common
It never fails. Within the first ten minutes of my presentation on accountability someone raises their hand and says "Isn't this just common sense? My parents raised me to be accountable for my actions." or "They taught us this in the Navy, when I was in the military, you obeyed orders and were accountable."
No doubt parents and the military taught accountability. So what the heck happened? When I get the barrage of "You are wasting our time with your accountability schtick" I ask a question.
How many of you have thought about holding someone accountable but then decided and acted on -- 'it's just easier to do it myself'?
HR Won't Let Us Touch the Unaccountable
"Oh Linda! You don't know what it's like. It's just too much trouble to deal with the slackers on our team. HR won't let us touch them without four volumes of documentation and even then they are still here." This is usually complete bunk. The people who tell me this often don't even know what the process is to hold an employee accountable, put them on a performance improvement plan or terminate. They just "heard about how hard the process is" and decide to work around the person or just take care of the work that is not getting done. Who does that reward?
Do You Want the Upside of Accountability?
On the bright side, everyone I come in contact with is able to tap into what it would be like if everyone was more personally accountable. They can go to that happy place in their mind's eye and imagine everyone in their life being more personally accountable and see and feel what that yields. "Yes! Let's do this, let's ensure accountability in our work culture, in our family, in our life!! We will reap many upsides that we can actually name such as less stress, more productivity, having time to do our own thing, less worry about whether things are getting done..."
Oh yes, the upside is there, it's real and it is definitely better when everyone in your life is more personally accountable.
However...The DOWNSIDE of Accountability is Real
But not so fast. What is the downside if everyone in your life is more personally accountable? Without telling the truth about this we won't stop the catastrophic rewarding of not being accountable.
The downsides of higher levels of personal accountability are real and many. These downsides are rarely addressed because everyone tells me..."There is no downside to higher levels of personal accountability. Really? Think about it. See what you can come up with and then you will have your answer. And, you will have to make a personal decision. Will I stop rescue, fixing and saving? Will I hold people accountable?
To be at the top of your game and demonstrate personal accountability; to extract yourself from the game of rewarding the unaccountable you have to consciously decide not to play. Stop rewarding those who are not being accountable, hold them accountable instead of just doing it yourself. Pay the price of admission (not being liked, things take longer, controlling your impatience, etc.) to get all the goodies more personal accountability delivers when you expect it of others. Here is the truth:
You cannot mandate accountability in others, you can only demonstrate it.
By the time I am done with this discussion at the leadership level and the leaders have told me all the ways they thought they were all that and more with accountability, a whole new vista emerges that is completely reachable. But to enjoy this new view you have to put your mental hiking boots on because it's going to be a climb. If you would like to visit base camp of the journey read The 85% Solution, How Personal Accountability Guarantees Success. No Nonsense. No Excuses. You will definitely be able to stop rewarding the unaccountable more than you reward the accountable.
If you are not part of the solution in a culture that rewards the unaccountable more than the accountable, you are the problem.