Why Accountability Should Be Everyone's Job
Ditch the hierarchy and encourage accountability.
In one form or another, it’s critical to have accountability in the workplace. That means there is an expectation that you will be recognized for the quality of the work you deliver. If you work in an organization that still relies on hierarchies, accountability is clear, and it only goes one way: It’s neatly distributed and rolls up. Each person is accountable to his or her boss. That person is accountable to theirs. And so on. It’s clear and simple.
But what happens when your organization doesn’t rely on hierarchies to make decisions and get work done? How then do you make sure everyone, including you, is accountable for his or her performance–both good and bad? If you no longer rely on conventional top-down management hierarchies to solve problems or hand out praise, you need to encourage and empower the members of your organization to hold each other accountable for their contributions.
Consider how open source communities operate: there are no predetermined leaders or group of leaders who are officially in charge. Rather, there are people who are charged with making decisions based on the input they receive from the group. When someone goes astray, it’s left to the community itself to resolve the issue. Similarly, if someone performs rock star level work, it’s the community’s role to recognize that contribution. It creates great synchronicity: The more you are accountable to your peers, the more aware you’ll be about the impact of your decisions and actions. That’s why we like to say that, at Red Hat, it’s everyone’s job to be accountable to everyone else.
While it’s clearly important for people to own up to their missteps, I actually believe that 80 per cent of being accountable relates to the positive reinforcement of good behaviour versus bad. Building accountability into your culture is also a critical form of celebration and support.
For instance, I was asked recently if I could reach out to one of our sales reps who was working on a last-minute customer request toward the end of the quarter. Since this associate was working around the clock to resolve the request, his manager sent me a note asking if I would be willing to call up the associate and tell him how much we all appreciated his extra effort. While I know that type of thing happens in many companies, it’s truly part of the fabric here at Red Hat. I get requests like this every week, which proves that there really is a culture of gratitude here where every associate relies on his or her peers for praise and acknowledgment that most companies only give their managers the power to bestow.
Of course, there are also going to be times when you need to correct less than optimal performance. If you work without hierarchies, that means employees and contributors are expected to work out issues among themselves, rather than bumping them up through the hierarchy for resolution like we’re taught to do working in conventional corporate culture.
Open Organizations like Red Hat focus on driving innovation and keeping ahead of the trends in the market–not devoting scarce people-power to missteps better left for peers to solve. I believe too many organizations tend to get sucked down into creating policies and procedures aimed at quelling misbehaviour, which is truly a waste of a talented person’s time and energy.
If you need help with your business, I work with entrepreneurial business owners, executives and their teams to ensure full accountability so they can meet obligations, promises and commitments made to others and themselves. My name is Darren Finkelstein, Business Coach, Advisor and Presenter.
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