Accountability vs Blame

 

Accountability vs Blame
Accountability vs Blame

Everyone makes a mistake on occasion.  I’ve seen the smartest and most meticulous people write down the wrong time or date for a meeting.  It happens.  And as long as it’s not habitual, most people tolerate small mistakes.

Accountability vs Blame

Then there are major screw ups.  Perhaps someone didn’t anticipate a key risk on a project or realized during step 9 that step 3 in a process was skipped, causing major rework and embarrassment with the client.

The real issue is how organizations deal with mistakes of this nature.  Many organizations talk about not focusing on blame.  Certainly, when a major faux pas is made, the first thing to focus on is how to make amends.

Who was responsible?

Once corrective actions begin, you start to hear people saying things like “We have to determine who is responsible and hold them accountable.”  To me, that sounds a lot like “We need a scapegoat to shoulder the blame.” A decision needs to be made. It is a debate of accountability vs blame.

I’m all for holding people accountable.  But people have different opinions of what that means.  Some see it as identifying someone to punish while others see it as a teaching moment.  Some see punishment as a form of teaching, assuming that if an employee knows they’ll face a severe punishment for messing up, they will be extra careful.

This negative reinforcement may make employees cautious, which can be good.  But it may make them too cautious, causing them to avoid any type of risk that could help them – and the organization – excel.

Performance evaluations

Performance evaluations tend to start someone with the expectation of perfection, and then ding them down to their realistic level after identifying everything they did wrong.  This can create a negative environment, where people either cover up errors or begin passing blame on other people as soon as things go south.  In this type of environment, people learn that the sooner you can pin the blame on a co-worker, the quicker you can save your own ass.

There are positive environments that have tolerance for errors, some that even encourage people to take risks and make errors in the interest of learning.  This creates an environment of honesty and accountability.  As soon as someone realizes something is wrong, they feel confident going into the boss’s office and saying “I made a mistake that could cost us (time, money, credibility, all of the above)”.

A good leader will both work with an employee to help figure out how to correct an error, and hold them accountable in a positive way.  They will help them identify lessons learned – what they could have done differently to avoid this happening again?

See my related post: Management Flexibility: That’s Not How I’d Do It

Organizations like this tend to be more transparent with their employees and with their customers, creating an environment of trust within the organization and with everyone that interacts with them.

How does your organization hold people accountable?

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms. 

Related Posts
Consulting Skill: Getting Others to Communicate
  One of the most critical consulting skills is communication.  A good consultant needs to know when to communicate, when not to, and the most effective way to do it when ...
READ MORE
On Being Bold: Step on the Gas
A few years ago, I purchased a classic car – a 1975 Oldsmobile Delta 88 convertible.  It’s been a fun car to drive around town on nice summer days.  It’s ...
READ MORE
Good Manager, Poor Leader. What’s Missing?
The baseball coach was frustrated with his team. They just weren't executing. When they were up to bat, they couldn't buy a hit. The pitchers gave up too many hits. ...
READ MORE
Motivation: Positive and Negative Incentives
When I was in high school, I had a fantastic U.S. History teacher.  He had us subscribe to Time Magazine and we were required to read an editorial from the ...
READ MORE
Feedback Loops through the One On One
Managing teams in any environment is a challenging undertaking.  You’re trying to accomplish some goal as a team. But each member of the team has their own individual goals that ...
READ MORE
Management Flexibility: That’s Not How I’d Do It
There is an age-old debate about how the toilet paper should roll for most efficient dispensing.  One school of thought says the paper should roll up from the bottom while ...
READ MORE
Boundless optimism: We Need 16 to Tie, 17 for the Lead
My son had a baseball tournament this past weekend at a park complex that had multiple fields.  While we waited for another game to finish so that his team could play, ...
READ MORE
Are You Following or Creating Your Own Market? A Parable
There was once a man we’ll call Pete, who visited the market and witnessed an upward trend of consumers buying potatoes.  He knew several potato farmers.  So he talked to ...
READ MORE
Is It Bad To Be a Bossy Woman?
There has been a lot of talk about bossy women lately.  Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is leading a formidable group of successful women, including Condoleezza Rice and Girl Scouts CEO ...
READ MORE
The Bad Decisions We Encourage
It starts at an early age.  Teachers and parents tell us that to be successful and smart we have to get good grades.  Their intentions are good.  They assume that ...
READ MORE
Consulting Skill: Getting Others to Communicate
On Being Bold: Step on the Gas
Good Manager, Poor Leader. What’s Missing?
Motivation: Positive and Negative Incentives
Feedback Loops through the One On One
Management Flexibility: That’s Not How I’d Do It
Boundless optimism: We Need 16 to Tie, 17
Are You Following or Creating Your Own Market?
Is It Bad To Be a Bossy Woman?
The Bad Decisions We Encourage