Even in a room full of seasoned executives, some can be made uncomfortable at the notion that his peers expect to be able to monitor KPI’s to be aware of progress and status. He assumes people want to meddle in his business or spy over his shoulder. If a project or initiative is important enough to the enterprise that the executive staff is engaged and discussing it, there should be no surprise that they have an interest in the outcome or whether the team is falling behind schedule. Of course, this topic that can fill a whole chapter in a book that ranges from team trust, doubting motives and team dynamics that make people be defensive. The right thing is for the executive to account for his own actions and to expect the external accountability of his peers. If you account for your own actions you are practicing internal accountability.
Internal accountability comes from the proper balance of what you can get done and what is reasonable for your team or your company to expect you to deliver; making the commitment to do so and then executing a credible plan to make good on the commitment. An internal sense of job satisfaction comes, in part, from knowing that you are delivering on expectations. With internal accountability, each commitment or obligation is an opportunity to succeed.
Success from internal accountability comes it two forms: 1) Delivering on a commitment, and 2) anticipating a need that your organization has that is reasonable to expect you to fulfill and getting the job done without being asked. There are some deliverables that your particular role will inherently require from you. This proactive internal accountability will build your credibility as a solid, reliable contributor amongst your peers.
There is an implied time component to any meaningful commitments or obligations. You have to get something done at the expected quality level and at the expected time. Task lists are the enemy of people that make commitments or hold themselves accountable to an outcome. If you replace them with deadlines on a calendar, you have a credible plan to achieve the desired outcome and can tell when you are ahead or behind schedule.
You have to be flexible to deliver on obligations. Circumstances will often render a formerly credible plan inadequate to get the job done. So, you have to police yourself and be honest about the progress and status to know that your plan is growing less likely to deliver the committed outcome. Then you have to be ready to improvise and adapt to modify the plan. There is no shame in modifying the plan to be successful. The shame would be ‘letting circumstances happen to you’ and falling short on the commitment.
Of course, as long as there are bad bosses, there will be unfortunate applications of accountability that amount to threats. However, if we all practice anticipation, proactivity and deliver on implied or assigned obligations, accountability can transform an organization.
So, accountability gets a bad rap when it is used by bad bosses or if you don’t have a credible plan. The fact is that you will be judged and your performance is being assessed. However, if you use internal accountability to be your own worst critic and have high expectations of yourself then being judged will be a welcomed, positive performance review. If you think of your commitments and obligations as opportunities to succeed, accountability is a very positive tool.