The Window and The Mirror

All the classes I teach have an element of accountability training in them.  In my view, accountability is about taking ownership for your actions and your results.  If you want to learn (a lot) more about accountability, look on the right side of the blog posts on my blog page and click on “accountability.”

The question I hear the most in organizations when I am teaching accountability is “how can we make other people we work with more accountable?”  It’s not surprising that when we learn the concepts of ownership and responsibility for our own actions, our first thought is “well he’s not accountable.”  It would be tougher to ask the more important question – “where am I not being accountable?”  It takes people some time to discover this question and the value it holds.

My answer to “how do we make others accountable?” (and I know it frustrates a lot of people) is “make yourself more accountable.”  The basic premise of accountability is to always turn the question back on oneself.  The premise of accountability is – it is never someone else that is the problem.  Again, hard to swallow, I know.

In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins identified a principle called the window and the mirror.  He said that great leaders look in the window when the company succeeds and in the mirror when it doesn’t.  What he means is when something is working, great leaders look outside themselves for whom to acknowledge and thank.  And when something is not working, they look at themselves.  This is true accountability (though I also believe acknowledging others and oneself when something goes right is very useful as well).

In the end a few things are true.  (1) You cannot make anyone else accountable.  (2) You can make yourself accountable.  (3) People tend to model the behavior the see and are inspired by.

So my answer is this.  Model accountability.  Always and at every turn.  This is not the whole answer.  But it is, and must be, the very first step.