Ladder of Accountability


Have you ever seen this image?

It’s actually a pretty good way to remind yourself of the best ways to keep your mindset open to solutions, and recognizing that there’s no way you can sit back and complain and snipe at the people working on solving the problems and still expect to remain gainfully employed (at least not in a high-functioning organization). To be successful, you should harness your power by taking responsibility for what you can control and work toward changing things for the better.

However, it only works when you have an organization that has a healthy culture based on trust, and everyone agrees to buy in, and hold each other accountable for using behaviors above the line.

I was once a part of a seriously dysfunctional workplace where leaders were clueless (or careless) about the engagement level of their employees, including high performers. They preferred to see their surroundings through the lens of fear-based control and power, and believed that they could impose this scheme on their teams.

In that setting, when managers shared the diagram above with their teams, they didn’t realize that those who were already on board were exhibiting these behaviors, and perceived the diagram as an affront, like their leaders weren’t paying any attention. Those who weren’t getting with the program by exhibiting power and responsibility received the message in an environment lacking in trust, and turned the diagram into a complete joke. It became a conversation piece symbolic of how clueless managers were. “Unaware” became shorthand for “unaware of any way this hopelessly messed up situation will ever change."

Before you share great tools with your teams, get your ducks in a row and make sure they are going to be receptive and prepared to respond by utilizing them in a way that brings success to your organization. What if you have team members who are never going to be on board, no matter how positive, trusting and functional your work environment becomes? It may be time to invite them to succeed elsewhere. That’s part of your accountability ladder as a manager.

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