I approached the meeting with immense personal bias and asked this group of highly creative people to help reframe, what I consider to be a mostly punitive word, with another that instills pride and responsibility. For years now, I’ve wrestled with the consequential implications of “holding one accountable for their actions”. The mere mention by political or business leaders has always sounded to me like a fear - based form of motivation and one that does not address the upside
Interestingly, as the discussion began to work its way around the table, one by one each person took a turn at putting my pejorative opinion in it’s place. The youngest team member hawked, “I believe that accountability is credibility”. Odd, I thought coming from a millennial but precisely what company leaders hoped to hear. Asked to expand upon what he meant - and with the help of others - a message of one taking responsibility for their work, their performance was identified as the manifestation of pride and ownership in their respective positions. Following up on this upbeat momentum, the CEO took his turn to expand saying that accountability is the underpinning of a young company - like this one - gaining traction, building internal pride, deploying hard skills, and achieving results. “It’s the expectation of work being accomplished that creates a sense of trust and common intent”.
This highly energetic conversation resulted in the awareness that, used in the proper context, “Accountability” is a very real, tangible quality that some people actually strive to own. And, in this case, having had this very real discussion, “accountability” was seated in the cultural mindset of a young company. Win - Win!
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