I personally feel one cannot live life without taking ownership and being accountable. My view is also that this does not apply to us adults only, but also to our children as early as they are able to start understanding that actions have consequences. I believe that it is our responsibility to explain the ‘why’ and demonstrate how we display ownership and act accountably as often as is possible. So when our children are adults, they will not experience difficulty in taking ownership and acting accountably. This post is not aimed at just children either, but rather what I feel ownership and accountability is, and how we can recognise and develop it for and within ourselves, and in doing so, impact others.
At a teambuilding session, one day, a colleague and I started talking. I can’t recall what led to me telling my colleague about a conversation I had with my eldest son the night before. Essentially, my son did really badly in a test. The reason for this was because he didn’t study for it. So we had the whole conversation about the impact of not studying and the consequence of his bad results. I eventually ended up telling him that people sometimes lose their jobs because of their actions, whether it’s because of their poor performance or breaking a company rule. These people are upset, and often angry at the company, but fail to realise that losing their jobs was because of themselves and the choices they made. My colleague was so shocked by hearing this. He asked me why I would go this far. My response was simple – ownership and accountability.
The reality, however, is that we didn’t all grow up in environments that instilled in us the value of taking ownership and being accountable. By nature, us humans can be very defensive. Therefore for some, ownership is a choice you make later in life. No person can then impose it on you. You can be told why it’s important, and why it is essential, but ultimately owning the decisions you make, the actions you take, and how you get things done or undertake to execute your responsibilities is up to you. This is done no matter what, because you are secure, confident and courageous enough to make the necessary decisions personally, and appropriate decisions professionally, without fear of being held accountable for the outcomes. This is when you have ownership.
Accountability is all about taking responsibility for the results or outcomes of your decisions and actions. Whilst ownership is intrinsic – it’s a choice within – it’s a value to you, accountability is extrinsic – it has external reward or consequence, and no matter how difficult or what the impact might be, you accept that you are answerable. Having conversations about ownership and accountability are very difficult, but necessary. Giving and receiving feedback is essential to our growth and development as individuals. My blog posts on Having Difficult Conversations: Part 1 and Part 2, might provide you with some guidance and inspiration if difficult conversations are something you prefer to steer away from.
Over the years taking ownership and being accountable has highlighted the following to me:
- Why & Purpose: You have pride in all things you do, you have a commitment to developing self, and you are able to see the bigger picture and understand your part in it all.
- Initiative: You know what your responsibilities are, and take accountability for the quality of outcomes. You make things happen, and go the extra mile because it’s who you are.
- Expectation & Capability: Clearer communication makes it more likely for the results or outcomes to be achieved.
- Trust: Strengthens relationships and instills a sense of confidence.
- Care & Feelings: Have empathy – it’s difficult having the conversation, and being on the receiving end of it.
- Impact & Consequence: Others are affected by our decisions and actions.
- Leadership: Setting an example, creating a culture, demonstrating equality and vulnerability despite role or rank.
Overall I believe ownership and accountability are key leadership principles. Without it, you limit yourself and others.
Until next time…
Yours in Adapting & Being