There’s a Reason it’s Called “Account-ability”

I was having coffee with David, a university student and football player who asked to meet with me to get my insights about starting a consulting practice. I’m always happy to meet with ambitious, young people who are eager to learn and grow.
It turns out I was the one who had something to learn.
We were talking about accountability and how it’s one of the hardest things that managers have to do in business. Then he says,
“You know, Michael, there’s a reason they call it account-ability, not account-inability.”
Hmmm, say more.
“It’s to hold people accountable for meeting expectations that they’re able to meet. It’s up to managers to make sure they’re able to meet them. It wouldn’t be fair to hold people accountable if they’re not able to meet the expectations.”
Well, that’s a refreshing perspective: account-ability, not account-inability.
And exactly right. The role of management is to set people up to succeed, not to fail. That means equipping them with the required skills, resources and authority. Aligning expectations with goals and instilling a sense of purpose. Coaching them by providing helpful feedback, and reinforcing the right efforts, actions and outcomes. Supporting them with reliable processes and equipment. And valuing them as individuals.
Two people are responsible for an employee’s performance: the manager and the employee. As a manager, are you living up to end of the deal? After all, it wouldn’t be fair to hold people accountable if they’re not able to meet expectations.
Make it happen.
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