I Am Accountable”: the power of an Individual to take responsibility for himself and his actions.

In today’s dimension of collective failure, the amalgamation of the multitudes has rendered a safety net designed to protect populaces from the realities of their misfortunes.  This judiciously entwined network of “excuses” has filtered out any concept of personal responsibility and replaced it with a communal acceptance of mediocrity.  Communal irresponsibility has stripped the concept of Individualism from the “standards of excellence” we deserve and has replaced it with an apathetic; “We are doing our best.”  The permeation of so many people willing to impose their culpability on others while advancing with the expectation of restitution is subverting our Quality of Life.

With this lack of Individualism, is it any wonder the value of Accountability is a vanishing trait in our realm.  Leaders must drive Accountability throughout their organizations

Ayn Rand

before they will be able to realize victory.  Prodigious teams are comprised of great individuals who each possess a passion for their personal success and Accountability.  Without the strength, resolve, and commitment of the Individual, nothing of greatness will be accomplished.  Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” (a must read for every Leader) and creator of the Objectivism movement, defined the significance of Individualism:

The mind is an attribute of the Individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise or an average drawn upon many individual thoughts. It is a secondary consequence. The primary act—the process of reason—must be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breathe for another man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred. – Ayn Rand

Progressively more people are repudiating Accountability. They are settling contentedly into the Victim Role and abrogating their responsibility for producing quality results.  The real failure here is not in the refusal to embrace Accountability, but it is in the reality that many Leaders are standing on the sidelines watching the concept of Accountability perish.  Numerous Leaders are becoming indulgent and defaulting to the notions of mass mistakes and group let-downs in order to avoid the confrontation of individual failure.  Greatness has never been accomplished by the masses.  No mob, no groups have ever truly constructed any achievement of magnitude.

The reality is that where teams, groups, or masses have accomplished prominence, there were individuals of talent who possessed the determination, inspiration and the aptitude to move agendas forward.  They delivered quality results often surpassing conventional wisdom and expectations.  Exceptional teams are built on magnificent individuals who are directed and motivated towards the same goals with the guidance of an invincible Leader.

In today’s “make everyone feel better” world, we have come to believe that we are able to gather a group of average people, designate them a team, and that by some cosmic power transform them into better collective.  This futile conception is a farce!   The amalgamation of mediocre people creates a unit which is less than average at best.  Without the strength of individuals, greatness will elude your team and you.

Beware the Three Headed Monster, Cerberus which in ancient times kept fallen souls from escaping hell.  Today, Cerberus continues to maintain a constant state of hell by providing comfort and shelter to the unaccountable using his three heads: Consensus, Teamwork, and Collaboration.  Each of these platforms can be implemented to significantly enhance the outcomes of an A-Team, but in the wrong hands they are a “hide-out” for inferior performance.  In these defensive environments, poor performers can harbor their complacency and incompetency while complicating your situation even further.  Let’s take a look at our Three Headed Monster.

Consensus - Teamwork - Collaboration

Consensus has become one of the magical buzz words of past decades.  It is, however, a dangerous concept capable of cleverly castrating the brilliance of individuals and their winning ideas.  After hours of back and forth wordsmithing, I once heard a facilitator use this unscrupulous “consensus building” line which I will never forget.  He looked at the group and asked, “Is there anyone who cannot live with this”.  He had reduced an impressive birth of individual creative but conflicting ideas, meant to advance us forward, and turned them into a watered down impotent bargain.  Consensus accomplishes exactly that, an agreement based on the lowest common denominator. Never let it help you in choosing the path or the resolution which you should follow. Consensus suffocates Accountability allowing everyone to leave the room saying, “That’s wasn’t my idea”.

The next contentious head of Cerberus which attacks Accountability is the misdirected endeavor to boost non-performers by placing them on teams.  Teamwork is a virtuous concept when implemented to bring together talented and proficient individuals for a mission grander than their singular capacities.  Without individuals who value Accountability, the team transforms into a cavern for non-performers to neglect responsibility and deliver blame to others.  A leader must understand he cannot make a team accountable.  Individuals accomplish goals and therefore, it is a collation of individual efforts that accomplish team goals.  As a Leader you need to assemble teams based on individual strengths and not as a means to prop-up the inadequacies of non-performers.

The third head of the monster is Collaboration.  What a wonderful word, Collaboration. Doesn’t it even sound like fun?  “We are all going to sit around and collaborate this afternoon”.  Who wouldn’t want to collaborate?  Collaboration relies on the concept that people are going to comfortably lounge around discussing subjects, problems, or ideas and based on this interaction a magic spark of genius or brilliance will surface.  There is really nothing new about the idea of collaboration. Successful people have been collaborating forever with each other.  Just as with teamwork, if you want to lead collaboration to success, you better have the right people in the room to start with.  Randomly putting average performers together to “brainstorm” does not raise the group’s intelligence.  Great individuals make great collaborations and then go on to produce results.

As a Leader you must know how to avoid the jaws of consensus, teamwork and collaboration when they are being used as a shield for non-performance and un-Accountability.  Do not be tempted by the lure of speculation that “Tomorrow’s Leader” will focus on these three monsters to get results.  Nothing is changing tomorrow that will allow a lack of Accountability to prosper.  Individual Accountability contains the power to accomplish tomorrow’s goals.  It is your responsibility to assimilate the power of Accountable Individuals to reach new levels of impacting results.

If you cannot drive Accountability on an individual basis you will have a failing team. Each person must understand what they are to deliver.  These deliverables are non-negotiable requirements.  There are No Excuses.

The Oz Principle

If you are looking for a great framework on which to build a culture of Accountability, spend some time with the “Oz Principle”, by Craig Hickman, Tom Smith, and Roger Connors.  The Oz Principle provides assessment tools for Accountability and builds a common language for what they term, “Above the Line” and “Below the Line” performance.  Above the Line actions lead to Accountability and Performance while Below the Line activities result in the “Blame Game” and Excuses.  Adopt these principles into your organization and you will see an immediate improvement.

Managers can easily undertake a “witch-hunting” methodology when trying to build an accountable organization.  They take what should be an inspiring enriching program and turn it into a hammer which sends their team scattering into turmoil.  Instead of Accountability, they only manage to accelerate the “Blame Game”.  If you have assembled an A-Team of accountable talented individuals and you support their values with a culture of honesty and recognition, the Accountability formula becomes self-fulfilling.

Truly accountable people have a severe revulsion to those who play the blame game.  As their Leader, they expect you to something about this “dead weight” so they can continue to perform with teammates who share like values and competencies.  If you identify certain people on your team who possess an aversion towards Accountability, you must remove them; they cannot be fixed or motivated into becoming accountable.  For the remaining performers, you need only two magic phrases.  A truly accountable person will spare the witch-hunt and proactively step up and admit fault.  Just look this person in the eye and say. “Bill, I am disappointed, I know you can do better next time”.  And for the accountable person who delivers results with success, all that is required is a heartfelt, “Sally, I am very proud of you”.  No drama!  With the right A-Team Individuals, it is really this simple.

The Street Smart Leader understands that once he finds accountable Individuals, only then can he put them into situations of teamwork and collaboration and expect results.  Always remember, as a Leader you are ultimately accountable for everything that happens and everything that doesn’t.  At the end of the day it all comes down to the decision you have made.  There are No Excuses!  Tomorrow’s Leaders will be already setting the pace and embracing their own true Individual Accountability?