Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Accountability: "The obligation to answer for a responsibility that has been conferred"

I've noticed that "accountability" is a real buzzword right now. Just now, I ran it through Google News and came up with a list of more than 24,000 news stories that mention "accountability."

At San Diego State, new football coach Chuck Long is taking steps to ensure accountability among his players, saying “When you have accountability like that within your own team, now they start to do all the right things."

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson recently said, "Deep down I think people want discipline and accountability."

At the University of Arizona, coach Mike Stoops recently said: "Good teams expect to play well and be accountable. This is what good teams do. The accountability has to be there. Our players are doing a better job of cleaning it up themselves."

At Syracuse, where the Orangemen lost to Akron this past weekend, coach Greg Robinson said: "I think there must be accountability as an athlete, always. When players take accountability for their actions, that's when you have the room for the most growth. The same goes for the coaches."

After Mike Sherman's Texas A&M team lost to Arkansas State in the season-opener, he was quoted as saying: "There has to be accountability and honesty. To get things straightened out, you have to be totally appreciative of the truth. Instead of being defensive, we have to be totally accountable."

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano told the NY Times recently that accountability makes it harder "to cut a corner and play less than at maximum effort."

There's also talk of accountability at Rice and Ohio State.

But it's not just college coaches who are stressing accountability lately.

Ray Allen credited a culture of accountability for helping the Celtics win the NBA title in June, saying:

"We held each other accountable to get on the floor every time there was a loose ball, to help in rotation when somebody was beat. We didn't expect any less from Paul [Pierce], they didn't expect less out of me. If Kevin [Garnett] was out of position we let him know, and everybody followed suit. It was that accountability all year long, that everybody knew when you came in here, we don't care about the offensive end."

After the Eagles beat the Rams by 35 points on Sunday, St. Louis coach Scott Linehan told his team "the accountability factor has to be high across the board, we have to all look at ourselves."

Last week, World Tennis Association chief executive Larry Scott said that he will suspend players who skip mandatory events, stressing "stronger accountability."

Brett Hull, co-GM for the NHL's Dallas Stars, said recently that one reason he signed free agent Sean Avery was because Avery "brings a lot of accountability to a lot of players."

I like the way this document defines accountability:

"Accountability is the obligation to answer for a responsibility that has been conferred."

This author describes accountability as "the quality or state of being accountable, an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions." Here's an excerpt from his article:

"It seems to me that accountability and responsibility represent important qualities for a credible leader to possess. By credible leader I mean a person who is believable, dependable, and worthy of people's trust and confidence.

At the bottom line, it is credibility that matters and credibility that provides the foundation of personal leadership.

Credible leaders act with character and integrity, and they earn and maintain credibility when they hold themselves accountable and behave in ways consistent with the values of accountability and responsibility.

To view their leader or organization as credible, constituents need to know that the people expected to lead will accept responsibility and account for their actions, claiming ownership for results produced as a result of their involvement, regardless of success or failure.

Despite our unreasonable expectations for flawless leadership, people fail. Humans are fallible; and where people are, there will be human error. Conditions change; situation awareness degrades; people make judgment errors; fail to do what they say they will do, what they intended to do, or what thought they would do.

These failures, large and small, take a toll on a leader's credibility. A leader can regain lost credibility and regain the trust of followers by responding to their failures in a way that is acceptable to constituents.

However, the leader cements damage to their credibility by failing to take responsibility for their actions, the performance of subordinates, and the actions of the organization. In other words, when actions appear inconsistent with the values of personal accountability and responsibility.

When a person expected to lead fails the accountability test, his or her honesty, character and integrity comes into question. Trust is broken, and we know that trust is essential to both credibility and leadership."