First of all, many times people ask me: Darren if I am responsible, does that also make me accountable? No, not necessarily. It depends on the role you have.
So, let me explain. Responsibility is an obligation given to you. Accountability is being answerable for your decisions and the actions of your entire team.
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Consider yourself an employee who’s assigned a certain role in a project. It’s your responsibility to complete the assigned task to the best of your ability. You can also delegate part of the task to your junior colleagues if you need help completing it. Once the assigned task is complete, you get to go home as that’s the end of your responsibility. You have been successful and you’ve delivered as required.
So, now consider yourself the project manager of the job at hand. At this level, you are answerable for every decision you make, and every project you deliver. If there’s a mistake, you have to take yourself and your workers back to the drawing board and fix the mistake. Furthermore, you cannot delegate your job to your juniors. You are ultimately answerable for the successful completion of the project.
A successful manager evaluates if the work done by his employees is up to the mark. While it’s also their responsibility to get it done right. Accountability in this role is vital to keeping up with the deadlines and staying on the path of success as well.
Remember, established accountability keeps a person motivated to do better than they have done so before. The sense of answer-ability or accountability is something that comes from within. It’s not imposed on you. Responsibility, on the other hand, id imposed, it comes from an external source. So, being accountable helps you cope with your responsibility in an effective manner.
Furthermore, It’s fairly obvious from this conversation that employees must hold responsibility for their part while managers are both responsible and accountable for every employee and project under their supervision. They can delegate the responsibility by dividing up the tasks but they’re still accountable for every team member’s work.
Accountability has an upward flow. In an organization with a standard hierarchy, managers are senior to employees. Upward flow means managers are accountable for the work done by their junior employees. Whereas, responsibility has a downward flow. It flows down to junior employees by their seniors.
Responsibility can be given, received and assumed but accountability is something you must take heed too. Most often, it’s inherent in the position you assume. For instance the marketing director will be credit with the success or failure based on the outcome of ALL marketing campaigns. And if anything doesn’t go according to the plan, you will be accountable to your superiors and the job itself.
When your role is being accountable for the work done by your employees. You must be both responsible and accountable too. You’re also answerable for the work done by your employees. So, you must remain in touch with them to keep the work going and fixing errors. This effect will reinstate responsibility on your junior peers.
In addition to this, if you’re an employee given a certain responsibility. Your job is to fulfill it and deliver. The manager will evaluate your work. It’s up-to-the higher-ups to say if you should go back and start from scratch in case of a mistake because you are answerable for your own work.