Monday, October 29, 2012

Accountability starts with keeping agreements both small and large

How do you teach accountability in a half day module? It is a question that appeared on the Organization Development Network LinkedIn Forum. I responded in the following way.

For me accountability in its most basic form starts with credibility. Doing what you say you will do, "ALL the time." Little things like "I will call you when I am in town" and the big things "We will the finish project on time and on budget" all are part of being accountable. Obviously "ALL the time" is a virtual impossibility and yet, if our intent is "All the time" then we will be seen as far more accountable than most others.

When we cannot honor an agreement to maintain accountablity we need to let the other party know as soon as we know that the commitment will not be met. Whenever possible we need to provide another alternative to the agreement that has been broken, and perhaps most importantly, ask forgiveness, and commit to not doing it again. Some will read ask forgiveness and substitute saying you are sorry. They are actually quite different. Saying your sorry allows you to walk away and think the situation is repaired. Asking for forgiveness does not allow you to walk away until you hear whether you have been forgiven and the situation is acceptable.

In a half day module to teach accountablility I would begin with the power of credibility. I would teach people that when you break the simply agreements like not being on time, not calling someone when you are in town after you said you would, you are establishing yourself as someone who is not accountable. Why would anyone who breaks these simple agreements be credible for something important, like getting a key project assignment? Ask yourself, when someone breaks a commitment with you, how does it make you feel? If you are like most of us you are angry, disappointed and will often judge the person as not someone you can trust, not someone who is accountable? Sound right?

Now ask yourself, what happened the last time you broke an appointment or commitment with someone. How did they feel? How did you think they should feel? Really stop and do this before you read the next paragraph and you will likely be surprised.

When someone else breaks a commitment to us, we often judge them poorly and we are upset and saddened that we could not count on them. HOWEVER, when we break an appointment we are, in our own minds vindicated, our excuse intact and our credibility never in doubt.. We judge others by their ACTIONS and we judge ourselves by our INTENT! Not surprisingly though others will also judge us by our ACTIONS. This is what I would teach regarding accountability.

Hope you find this helpful because the topic is so important!

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