“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.”
• Courtney Lynch
We all attend meetings that start off with a report on metrics. Very carefully, each performance metric is addressed and those responsible for shortfalls are asked to speak to the deficiencies. This is when the yawning begins. Those responsible for providing answers roll out long explanations, narratives and associate blame to the poor performance. Those tentacles of blame spread out across various departments in the organization. The long-winded narrative ends with the how things won’t change until others change first. This exercise goes around the room, repeating the song-and-dance of blame and excuses, until the metrics report reaches a painful end. The problem is that there is a lot of head nodding, whispered agreement and sometimes heated exchanges about how things have to change. But, at the end of the meeting, everyone shakes hands and goes back to the safety of their offices. The well orchestrated production carries out meeting after meeting, metrics continue to be missed because of our reasons why there is failure. The problem with that is the organization keeps falling short: short on performance, short on productivity, short on customer satisfaction and short on financial performance.
The fact is, if you continue to give or accept excuses, without committing to accountability, this will continue to be the way things are and the organization will fail. Think back to those meetings. When was the last time someone said clearly and plainly Make the numbers! No excuses, no long stories of struggle or playing the blame game. This is truly about accountability. It means that leaders will instinctively, immediately respond when they see barriers getting in the way of their committed performance. They will be relentless in getting the necessary data analysis, operator inputs, and relevant support group input to find a path back to the numbers that have been committed to by the entire team. They will go over, under, around or through whatever obstacles are in the way to make things happen. They will keep their leaders informed regularly and draw on higher level help if necessary to get back on track. If they ultimately fail, it will be because they just ran out of time, not that they gave up trying.
Accountable leaders are the best and most successful leaders. This type of accountability starts at the top and goes down to the lowest levels in the organization. They are very disciplined and committed to standard work processes and accurate data. If there is a shortfall in the metrics, they go to work. They make no excuses. They attack the problems and find solutions, then correct them, with the goal of changing the metrics from negative to positive trends. Accountability is not just an everyday thing. It is an every month thing, an every quarter thing and an every year thing! It is just what an accountable leader does.
Are you an accountable leader?