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By Steve and Jill Morris

Organizational Accountability is owning the consequences of your choices in delivering the agreed-to results that everyone owns but no one person controls, and helping other people do the same.

This definition requires that you to set up clear accountabilities based on agreed-to results, otherwise you are leaving accountability to chance.

  • Are you taking the time to define, in the appropriate detail, exactly what you want others to agree to and deliver?
  • Are you asking for agreements or are you just assuming that they exist?
  • Are you confirming those agreements?
  • Are you tracking agreements people make with you?
  • Are you following up in a timely way to hold people accountable for the agreements they made with you?

There is nothing you have to learn to implement these ideas. To quote Yoda: “There is only do, or don’t do.” They just take practice.

You are accountable to drive accountability with the people you lead and collaborate with. If you said NO or sometimes to any of the questions above, you may want to take this opportunity to reflect on and think about how you will apply them in the next few hours in a way that could impact your performance and that of the people around you.  

Ownership comes in many forms:

  • If you agree to attend a meeting, then you own the results of that meeting as much as any other person, including the person who is leading it. When things go off track or you have an idea that might support the group and what they are attempting to achieve, ownership requires you to speak up and share your insights.
  • If you take a job that requires you to interact with people in other departments, your peers, and people on your team, you own the consequences for the results you have agreed to deliver, even if some people don’t contribute what they promised. When you perceive challenges in performance or between people, your commitment to those results that everyone owns and no one person controls require that you reach out to help others perform and/or take action to overcome the challenges their lack of performance creates.
  • If you are on a team, you own the success of that team. If people are operating independently or protecting their silos when they need to be collaborating across boundaries, as a member of that team, you own the act of reaching out to bridge the gaps and drive engagement, even if you are not the leader.  

Yes, there are exceptions to each of these ownership situations. Most of the time, those exceptions drive mediocrity; they are excuses that are more about YOUR desire for comfort than respect for anyone’s boundaries.  

Action does not require control or power. Sharing your perceptions about what is not working, what may be in the way or what is missing and offering help and solutions are all part of your commitment to what everyone owns but no one person controls.  How you go about leading that accountability is a topic for many future letters.

Some questions you can ask yourself when things are not going the way you want them to go are:

  • Given the situation, what do I want that supports my ownership and that of others?
  • What could I do to get what I want?
  • Will that behavior get me what I want?
  • What else could I do? (Generate Alternatives and Evaluate those alternatives against evidence.)
  • What will I do? (Make a commitment and act on it.)

You can do a self-evaluation like this in as little as one or two minutes or you can take hours. 

Steve and Jill Morris are the founders of ChoiceWorks, Inc.