Accountability in the workplace

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Managers say that they want employees to be more accountable – what does accountability mean? Accountability is where you are given responsibility for a particular area and you are expected to generate results. It also means that you are prepared to suffer the consequences – good or bad – based on your area or department.

Two models of accountability – the leash and the fenceline. Many managers use the leash model – that is they are superior to the employee and the give the employee small tasks and always have a hand on the leash so they can yank the employee back in if they go astray. The problem with the leash is that the manager always has to be watching and can’t leave the employee on their own.

The better accountability model is the fence – instead of a leash I describe the fence line or area of resonsibility for the employee and let them run things within their fenceline. If they generate good results, I can enlarge the fence and increase accountability – if they are not successful I can reduce the fence and give them less responsibility.

Other factors that are essential for accountability:

– Managers have to describe the expected outcomes, values and guidelines
– Sufficient authority is given so the person can make decisions in their fence line
– Provide adequate resources to get the job done or describe the limitation
– Provide skills, coaching and training
– Apply consequences – good or bad depending on the results

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