Accountable? Of Course I AM!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

One of the most common issues to surface during project management and leadership experiences is that others just aren't accountable. However, we’re each convinced that WE are always accountable. Yes, the math just doesn't work.

In the chaos and frustration present in today's workforce, I suggest it’s time to think differently about accountability. Consider the following questions instead:

  • How can I do a better job asking for what I want and help others be accountable? ·
  • How can I hold others accountable to a measurable result without drama or conflict? ·
  • How can I ensure that I am accountable to others by seeing what I don't now see?  

In reality, WE don’t practice what we preach regarding accountability. What is obvious and simple in our minds may not be for others. In fact, many of us are overly ambitious with our requests to others.  We think everyone else’s job is simple. We think we’ve asked for what we want clearly, but instead the request comes out unclear. 
Bottom line: In our haste to check off tasks, we tend to use “we” too much, as in “We need to get this done immediately.” But who is this “WE”?


Consider the following checklist for assigning tasks:

  • What will the outcome look like specifically when it is complete? How will everyone measure it?
  • Which ONE person is responsible for the task being finished, whether they do the work of not? ·
  • What is the due date? ·
  • What is the priority of this task compared to the others you have requested?
  • How will you remind people of their accountability?  Communicate early and often.

Finally, here are some ideas for getting “real” with ourselves:

  • Ask your key customers how you could improve your accountability.
  • Ask your team the same question.
  • Ask your kids - you'll get amazing answers.
  • Ask your significant other. (You’ll receive extra credit for the difficulty of this task.)

For more advice, join me in Chicago, Illinois, March 19-20 for the Project Management for Learning Professionals Certificate, or you can participate in the online certificate program April 2 - May 7. 

About the Author
Lou Russell is president and CEO of Russell Martin & Associates. She is the author of the ATD Press books Project Management for Trainers, Leadership Training and 10 Steps to Successful Project Management, among other titles. In addition to her many books, she contributes frequently to Computer World, Cutter Executive Reports, and Network World, among others, and publishes Learning Flash, an electronic newsletter.

Lou speaks at several national and international conferences, such as the Project Management Institute, Project World, and LotuSphere. She holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from Purdue University, where she taught database and programming classes, and a master's degree in instructional technology from Indiana University.
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