Personal Responsibility

Who’s Accountable for your Accountability?

Spend a day in company meetings and you will surely hear the word accountability many times. This should be a good thing, and sometimes it is though this is not always the case. I’m all for accountability but I question the definition or context of the word.

Think a minute… what is accountability to you?

Does it mean we should expect our supervisor and/or peers to hold us accountability for our mistakes? Does it mean everyone should call out anyone who hurts the company in any way?

The traditional expectation is people will be held accountable for their mistakes by others. This is not a desirable situation in my opinion.

Let’s do this first – eliminate the word accountability and replace it with personal responsibility.

If accountability is one of your coveted company core values, consider changing it tomorrow to Personal Responsibility. Explain it this way… “We take responsibility for our own actions and performance. This allows our leaders to focus on mentoring, strategy, and the other critical aspects of peak performance.”

Consider what it says about your hiring philosophy and practices if your employees need strict supervision? Is that what you really want?

If everyone takes full responsibility for their own performance, there is no real need for “bosses”. Have you ever read about holacracy? Check out Take a look at how Zappos has used holacracy to eliminate bosses in their amazing company. No bosses! None. How is this possible?

Well, it’s not as simple as no bosses – but personal responsibility is absolutely essential for success. I’m not suggesting it’s easy or that every company should eliminate it’s hierarchy but I do suggest you can focus on what is really important if your employees are personally responsible for their actions and performance.

Let me guess you’re trying to imagine a person in your company who has relied on their supervisor’s guidance to get their job done for many years. This is important. Not every employee on your roster will be a perfect fit for a core value of personal responsibility. The solutions are simple however. If you make this commitment, you will need to work with these employees who need plenty of oversight. Your human resources team will need to teach these employees and their supervisors to reinforce the concept of personal responsibility and train everyone to support the concept.

Another key task for human resources is to re-calibrate their hiring practices to identify people who are naturally responsible. One effective tool is a survey to assess an applicant’s inclination to hold themselves responsible such as Myers Briggs or Predictive Index (my favorite). The applicant takes a short online survey and you instantly know if they will do so. These systems are very accurate. The bottom line is – hire people who don’t need constant supervision and take responsibility for their own performance.

If I told you I could flip a switch and your executives would have more time for the big picture, strategic initiatives and issues that will drive your company to greater success, would you be interested? That is exactly what I’m telling you. Centering your company around personal responsibility will be a game changer for you! It will not always be easy and it wasn’t for Zappos but it worked for them and it should for you. It will not happen in a week but it will happen and you will be glad it did.

My last piece of advice is simple – engage your CEO Coach in this process. This is essential. If you don’t have a coach, I would be honored to discuss how you can establish “Personal Responsibility” as a core value and start realizing the many benefits immediately!

I hope this discussion on accountability has you thinking. Best…

“When you’re green, you’re growing’ when you’re ripe, you’re rotten”