I have been reading the book, Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink, a former navy seal and leadership coach and it impressed upon me the need for a bit of a discourse on the subject of accountability.
First, accountability, or owning the results of your actions is something that most people would espouse is what everyone must do, and yet in execution it’s a tougher beast. Realizing failure, or letting down those who have confidence in you, is a blow to a person’s ego, and it is almost human nature to try and deflect that blame onto another group, person or set of factors.
But the reality of life, is that you can’t control other people’s actions. You can’t control every environmental factor. The sole thing you have full control over is your own responses and your own choices. When your mindset shifts to realizing the responsibility of your outcomes rests on how you react to situations, it is deeply empowering. More than that, it is what leaders do. Bosses dictate work to employees and try to incentivize people with money and perks. Leaders inspire success in their teams by building relationships of trust and respect, wherein employees strive to produce their best work because they take pride in it. Be a leader and not a boss.
But there is another critical element to taking accountability. If you have an individual who always takes responsibility but then does not have a focused plan in place to improve, that leader is likely to get depressed and self-deprecating. In equal weight to bearing the responsibility, there needs to be a focus on implementing change in a structured way. The technology company, ONTRAPORT, I currently work for, does this well in a format they call a post-mortem.
It goes through a format similar to the following:
What went wrong?
Why did it go wrong?
How can we prevent this from going wrong in the future?
What should we be monitoring this next time around to check in that we are on the right path?
By doing this process you will create a structure through which you will not repeat the same mistakes. Furthermore, by taking responsibility, you will encourage both your peers and employees to take on the same gauntlet of accountability.