Accountability is dead. We no longer understand how important this verb is to not only our lives but our society. Nothing is my fault and nothing is your fault. Why? Because holding people responsible and accountable for their actions has some how become rude and inconsiderate and even politically incorrect.
As a teenager, I was held accountable for my actions by my parents. Granted, this was before MTV, Walkmans, and Motley Crue. Not that any of them were bad, but just to give you a time frame. It was explained to me by my Father, that if I or my friends ever got into any serious trouble, i.e. the police, we were accountable for our actions and going to rot in jail. Now, I can hear the snickers in the cubical and homes by today’s youth saying how that would never happen, my Parents loved me. Back then when music came on vinyl and cassette tape; it was how most parents showed they love us, by teaching us to be accountable for what we did. So I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart, my friends and I never had any issues involving law enforcement as teenagers. Not to say, we did not get into our form of mischief, but at least none of it involved law enforcement or illegal activities. OK, my rep is intact.
When I enlisted into the Marines and everyone who has ever served in the military will understands this, your held accountable for your actions. If you’re told to be at your post at 0800 and you show up at 0801, you’re late. No excuses, no whining, no reason unless it came from someone superior in rank mattered. You are part of a team and what makes that team successful is that everyone is accountable for doing their duty.
With many young veterans coming home from the two wars, we will hopefully see better forms of leadership and a greater understanding of this philosophy. You must perform your functions if the team is to come out of this alive. Yes, you can hate it, you can complain about it, but you’re going to do it. And as it always happens, when the job is done and that great sense of accomplishment overwhelms the group, even the whiners and complainers. Everyone feels a part of something successful and that is all a part of human nature. But even within our military ranks, were seeing this overwhelming betrayal of humanity and lack of ACCOUNTABILITY.
We as humans desire this form of self accomplishment. It’s not just for kids. We all like to feel that we are part of something. If it’s the leader, team mate, or even the support crew. Right now, the best example I can show you is right now with the positive events that unfolded last week in Pakistan. Yes, death is tragic, but when those members of Seal Team Six (I am not confirming they exist) took out the world’s most wanted and hated terrorist. That criminal responsible for killing thousands of Americans, for holding the world hostage and causing more problems than anyone since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Everyone who was part of that operation felt pride, even though majority of them cannot say anything about it, and just look at all the excitement it created in those people who had nothing directly or indirectly to do with it. We as humans, thrive to be part of success and accomplishment.
How can I be so sure of this, because right now our political climate is not about pointing fingers at each other as it has been for the past two years? The climate is about accomplishment; our country has done something that it has been working on for almost a decade. Accomplishment is what we as human beings look for. You want another more personal example, think of the last thing you HAD to do. April 15th, how many of you put off, delayed, and procrastinated the enviable task of filing your taxes? But once it’s done, you feel a sense of relief and for some a great feeling of accomplishment (especially if you getting money back). I hate moving my yard, but when it’s done, I feel like I just carved Mt. Rushmore and I want everyone to look at that finely manicured lawn and see that masterpiece of green that only an hour before reminded me of a South American jungle.
This is the same in our workplaces. “Oh that “IN” basket is packed higher than Mt. Everest,” “the boss wants me to work over-time to get this project done,” and everyone has heard this one “there is no way we can get this one done in time, so I am not going to waste my time.” Waste your time? Last time I heard, your time is your company’s time. Your time is the customer’s time. Your time is supposed to be doing whatever your paycheck requires you to do, time.
Many of us have either heard these words uttered or spoken them ourselves, but when we have finally accomplished that task or assignment, we are the first ones bragging about it, sometimes over happy hour or tweeting to anyone who will listen “I cleared my Everest,” “I got that project done and racked up several hours of over-time doing it,” and of course “I did not think I could do it, but I did.”
Workplace Accountability starts with the Organization. You cannot hold anyone accountable if it does not start at the top. Your employees are expected to be ready to go at 9 a.m. every morning. But the boss or supervisor strolls in around 9:15, makes a few personal calls, emails, gets another cup of coffee, chats up his or her buddies, then turns into the Drill Instructor at 10:15 wondering why everyone is just waiting around? Oh I know, “rank has its privileges” is what you’re going to use to defense yourself. Yes, but it also has its responsibilities too. You may not be directly responsible for making sure that 9:15 a.m. report is compiled and put out, but if your employees are and they fail. Who failed them first? Who set the example of accountability they needed?
As a Marine Intelligence Analyst, I was required to show up every morning at 5am, to pick up briefing documents to go through them all and compile the day’s briefings by 6:30. My Major was due in at 6:30 every morning and had 30 minutes to read them over, make recommendations for changes, and then off they went to the numerous Generals in our building. Accountability started with me? No, it started with the Marines who manned the message center and knew they had to have all these documents put together and ready for me by 0500 (5 a.m.). Not 0515 or 0530, but 0500. My boss expected them at 0630. The Commandant of the Marine Corps and his Generals expected them by 0700. In over 18 months, we never missed a deadline. Why? Because we all knew we were accountable and what was at stake if we missed it.
Now, this does not give a free pass to employees who happen to work for a less than accountable boss. I have been that employee and I have held myself accountable. Why? Because when you work for a less than accountable boss, your mess ups give that worthless example of management an excuse and reason to pull you down to their level and below. In my book, there is nothing less desirable than having a worthless manager or supervisor being able to legitimately talk down to you about your performance. So I try to hold myself accountable for my actions because I do not want to be associated with that unprofessional performance. And here is the incentive why; it helped me to become one worthless manager’s boss and another’s replacement.
How can you keep your employees ACCOUNTABLE? The first step is:
1.The example must be set by the company or superiors.
2.Explain to the employees the necessity, requirement, and reason for their duty.
3.Set achievement goals and be prepared to discuss them
4.Document the agreement and set up a goal achievement chart.
We have all seen this done in movies. Remember the 1980’s classic Major League? At the bottom of the standings are the Cleveland Indians. They must win all their remaining games to make the playoffs and keep their team in their city and also their jobs. So the Coach (key word) put up a cut out photo of the team owner who wants to move them to Florida. Every time they win a game, it strips away at her clothes. Now for my disclaimer, do not put up or use something up that is going to offend anyone. The point is it focuses the effort and the employees can measure their success and so can you and your company.
Employees like to see how they are doing. It breaks up the day to day monotony that so destroys motivation, morale, desire, and of course accountability. Remember, it’s the employee’s own personal motivation or “what gets them started” that will make or break the plan.
During the 1980’s and 90’s, it was well documented that successful businesses in Japan started each day by companywide exercise and motivation program. No they were not training for the Olympics exercises, but it was an activity in how to start the day off with an accomplishment. Remember, accomplishments are addicting and the more you do the more you want to do.
Not to over utilize my 12 wonderful weeks in San Diego, California, but Marine Corps Boot camp is set up with phases and cycles. Each day begins with physical training. This is not just to get everyone into tip top shape, but it’s also to start your day off with a major accomplishment. How much better will you feel about yourself if you have already accomplished something before 8am, than some people won’t do in two months? This is why, those people who exercise in the morning are more likely to start the day productive and finish it too, than those who drag themselves into work, hug the coffee pot and hope they can find motivation in a five hour energy drink. Boot Camp also has three phases and in those phases’ cycles and when each cycle is finished, it noted. Not with cake and ice cream, but an even bigger challenge that is gobbled up like the best Costco Desert, but that’s what separates Marines from the others.
Employee Accountability is so much more than just holding them responsible, it’s motivating them to succeed. Anyone can write someone up for lack of motivation (but it won’t stand up in an unemployment hearing unless you have video footage of them sleeping in their cubicle at work, underneath the “NO SLEEPING AT WORK SIGN.”) I have found it’s many times easier and more rewarding to motivate than punish. But we will discuss that in the next article.
You are going to find those employees who seem that they cannot be motivated or inspired. Those employees who maybe have been there too long or personally believe they know how to work around the system. Yes, we all know that or those employees. When the boss gives them the motivation speech, all you hear from them is “What’s in it for me?” This is where your outstanding Managers and Supervisors get their LEADERSHIP awards.
When you’re dealing with the ME employees. You know the ones who reply to the “There is not “I” in team” with “Yes, but there is a “ME”.” The employees who believe they are too smart to fall for this kind of manipulation of the masses, because they happen to have read Karl Marx in their community college class on literature. You as the Leader need to calmly and professionally explain to this Che Guerra:
1.I respect your point of view, but if YOU choose to NOT to do WHAT is EXPECTED of you, there are going to be NATURAL CONSEQUENCES for YOUR actions and decisions.
2.Now, if YOU choose to ACHIEVE the goals set forth for YOU. The following INCENTIVES are waiting for you.
Never ever ever go negative with threats. If you threaten your employees, especially those looking to martyr themselves or become the defacto leader of the oppressed, you’re giving them the power. You’re the boss; you keep all the power by using the two above points.
Do not bribe your employee or employees. Incentives and Bribes are two different tools. A leader gives incentives and a manipulator bribes. Employees expose the manipulators fast and once you’re a manipulator, you then become the manipulated. What’s the difference, employees earn incentives. Lazy worthless criminals and crooks earn bribes. Example, you don’t give a prison guard an incentive to allow you to escape, but you can bribe them.
Here is a workplace one, if the weekend is coming up and a project deadline is the following Monday, do you bribe your employees or give them an incentive?
(a) “Listen team, this project is due on Monday, if you don’t wish to work over the weekend, then we need to get it accomplished by Friday, that way we have the project done and the weekend off.”
(b) “Hey, if we don’t get this project done by Monday, were going to have to work this weekend.”
(c) “If you get this project done, we will have the weekend off and I will see about getting everyone a bonus or something?”
Which one is a bribe, which one is a motivator, and which one gives inspires them by honestly informing the employees, getting their buying in, and puts a goal on top of it with an incentive. Answers at the end.
If you have to bribe your employees to do their jobs, then maybe you as the manager need to hit the books and lectures about leadership and find out what you’re doing wrong before you cost your company and self respect too much damage.
Finally, to sum this up, you’re accountable for yourself. No one else is. You can blame others and yes, something people do deserve it, but at the end of the shift, what YOU do is what YOU DID.