If you have been following this series of Blogs you now know the 1st 6 steps to upgrading your personal and leadership effectiveness. Step 7 in effectiveness 3.0 is developing systemic accountability and adding it to the 1st 6 steps. Systemic Accountability is a process of modeling personal responsibility while actively developing a higher sense of mutual ownership in others for their commitments, follow-through and behaviors.
To understand Systemic Accountability, it is critically important to appreciate what destroys it. The number one force that damages personal, family, team or organizational accountability are the twin destroyers, Shame and Blame. Shaming someone or looking for who to blame in any situation leads to a hyper-state of CYA (Cover Your Ass-ets). If we want to get people to begin to claim responsibility for mistakes, mis-steps and actions that did not work out, we need to do as Dr. Deming preached for so many years as the leading Guru on quality, “Drive the Fear out.” To the extend there is fear around being shamed or blamed for undesired outcomes, we will create cultures in our organization and behavior in individuals of denial, finger-pointing to deflect the blame, defensiveness to corrective feedback, sweeping things under the carpet and a lot of CYA.
What drives shame and blame are some little words like, “Who” and also “Why” as they are linked in people’s minds with “Who is to blame?” and “Why did you let this happen?” Both trigger a sense of who can I blame and how could someone be so stupid as to let this happen? Those sentiments or even their implication through the use of “Why” and “Who” sets up the very opposite of a system of accountability and personal responsibility.
OK, if you take away the words why and who, then how will you build greater accountability? Simple, begin to use the words, “What” and “How” in a series of interlocking questions that focus on the building a sense of mutual responsibility for addressing issues, mistakes and problems. The focus being on what to do better or differently and how we will accomplish that.
I suggest something like the following as an example of someone who is removing fear while addressing a problem or mistake and building a greater sense of accountability and a willingness to take responsibility: “What happened here? What did we wish to have happen? What went wrong in our process or approach? How did our process or decision making break down? What will we do to address that? How will we address it? How will we know it is being handled and the process followed? What will you be doing differently going forward? What will we need to do differently? How can I help you or support you in that? What will you need from me? What will we need from the team or organization? How will we correct? When will it be done? How will we check in and hold accountability going forward? What have we learned? How will we apply that lesson?” And the interlocking series of questions on “what” and “how” go on – to make sure that there is clear accountability, not blame, while corrective actions are being taken with lessons learned and capacity increased, no shame applied.
Just doing the simple shift from “why” and “who” when dealing with people (keep the 6-Sigma whys for process) while focusing instead on “what” and “how” with individuals, teams and human systems will increase accountability and responsibility. Be a role model by applying the same questions to yourself and showing you are open to learning without blaming or shaming yourself nor anyone around you.
The mantra needs to be: Let’d do good work by focusing on what we want and how we can best create it while treating each other with dignity and respect, making corrections and addressing break-downs and mistakes in a candid, direct, positive and solution focused manner. Do this, as well as steps 1-6 in the prior blogs and your effectiveness at work and at home will catapult you into a higher level of performance in all you do.