It never ceases to amaze me how many times over the course of a week someone builds up my expectations of something happening on schedule or according to a predetermined plan, only to find out at the eleventh hour that nothing will happen !
When I really started to think about this phenomenon, I realized it was little wonder that we have so many difficulties managing our daily routines when fewer and fewer of our expectations are being met.
Our private lives and our day-to-day business dealings are shifting from Great Expectations to Mediocrity.
The very definition of expectations is something expected
The truth is, I am not sure exactly where Great Expectations turn into Mediocrity; however, it is my belief that the majority of this transformation is directly attributable to the degree to which people are accountable for their actions. Lack of accountability infers Mediocrity while, responsibility equates to Great Expectations. It's a little like buying a hat that says 'Simple' on it, just so people won't expect too much from you - you get what you expect !
There are easy ways to improve or maintain accountability in the workplace:
However, if you don't get the people process right, you will never fulfill the potential of your business. The people process is more important than either the strategic planning or the decision-making or operations management processes. After all, it's the people in an organization who are accountable to make judgments about how markets are changing, create strategies based on those judgments and translate strategies into operational realities. 2
Thomas Sowell one of America's leading contemporary intellectuals drives this point home with his quote; "It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong."
OK so there is a direction for continued or improved business accountability, but what about our personal accountability?
Many of us realize that there are some core values that exist within society in order for it to thrive as opposed to merely survive. Trust, honesty, partnership, purpose, vision, and commitment are all essential for alignment and continuous breakthrough. However, the missing link lies in the experience of accountability, taking ownership for our results via the power of choice. Without this critical element, everything else becomes secondary or pales in comparison.
Somewhere back in our early school days, we were first introduced to the theories surrounding CAUSE and EFFECT. In conjunction, we also became aware of the distinction between ACTION and REACTION. Surely, we are convinced that these principles have direct applicability to the core of our personal relationships. In the realm of society, cause and effect take on very significant proportions in terms of creating lasting results. It is clear that we are either making things happen or things are happening to us.
Accountability allows us to look at the impact of decisions we make based on limiting and/or empowering beliefs we are packing around. The challenge of accountability is that it allows us to examine the extent to which we allow ourselves to feel powerless in life by thinking something or someone else "did it to me." 3
Knowing this, why are fewer and fewer of our personal expectations being met ?
Simple (and not the simple where people won't expect much), it is human nature to take the path of least resistance or of least pain. We live in a society where people position themselves to CYA (Cover Your Behind), just in case there is trouble - we want to be able to say "I did my job !!" or "that was someone else's responsibility !!" - there is an escape hatch.
Most of us fear being accountable because we misconstrue its real meaning. We mistakenly equate accountability with blame, fault, or being wrong. NO!! We need to realize that getting to the source of any issue requires an acknowledgement of how our choices and actions shape our experience and perception of everything. Blame is irrelevant. Instead, the point is to realize you were a participant in the event and had an influence based on your choices.
Personal power stems not from fault, but from learning. True credibility in our personal lives or our work environment lies in the willingness to live an accountable lifestyle -Accountability allows each of us to look at all of life's experiences, take credit for decisions we've made along the way, and learn. 4
Michael Armstrong exemplifies this concept best in his quote, "The ancient Romans had a tradition: whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: he stood under the arch."
Living life from an accountable perspective literally transforms the context and quality of our relationships. It is a framework that creates more energy, power, and purpose.
In order to truly live accountability, we must LET GO of our need to be right and our need to look good and massage our precious ego-image. We must examine our relationships, both business and personal, and notice those instances where we are accountable vs. wallowing in our 'fur-lined' rut of victim hood. 5
Seems sensible to me, I guess I just expect too much from most of the people I interact with during my daily routine … sad.
Webster's Online Dictionary: http://www.m-w.com/
Accountability Quotes 1: http://en.thinkexist.com/keyword/accountability/
Accountability Quotes 2: http://www.freedomsnest.com/cgi-bin/q.cgi?subject=accountability
1. Finding the Leaders Within: http://www.cio.com/archive/101502/leaders.html?printversion=yes
2. Accountability is a State of Mind … Like Frustration: http://www.gantthead.com/article.cfm?ID=16634&authenticated=1
3. Accountability … The Cornerstone of Family Relationships: http://www.focusas.com/Accountability.html
Sloan Campbell is a Program Manager at ELCAN Optical Technologies. ELCAN Optical Technologies (ELCAN) is a world photonics leader specializing in the design and manufacture of complex, precision opto-mechanical and electro-optical systems and subsystems for projection display, medical, industrial, automotive, defence, entertainment and telecommunications markets. You can e-mail your comments to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Many more articles in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher Archives