Accountability means being held to account, scrutinized, and being required to give an account or explanation of your actions and decisions.
Somewhere in the last half century or so, society as a whole seemed to forget that there was such a thing as personal responsibility or personal accountability. Whether accountability and responsibility disappeared in the rush to claim the almighty dollar as the most important thing in life or whether they disappeared along with morality in favour of “the right of an individual to do whatever they want” is unknown. What is known, however, is that when individuals no longer felt that they were responsible for their own actions, society began to crumble.
Today, when someone does something that they should not do, instead of being made to face the consequences blame is shifted to their parents, the environment or the location where they were raised, their schooling or lack thereof, alcohol, drugs, the government or some other thing. The individual is never held accountable. That is pure crap. If the person is not mentally deficient, then they know the difference between right and wrong. If they know the difference then they also know if they do something that they will have to pay the consequences.
It is time that parents, teachers, religious leaders and the courts start teaching children from an early age that they must take responsibility for their actions and that they are accountable for everything that they do. It may be too late to get adults to realize this, but we can turn things around by ensuring that future generations understand this basic requirement for members of a civilized society.
As a former police officer, I find it strangely ironic that members of the public want to make politicians, public servants and corporate leaders accountable, but they do not want to have to be accountable themselves. They want everything these people do made reportable and examined in every aspect while at the same time they do not want any of their own actions or information to be released to anyone under any circumstances.
Well, that just will not work. The only way that accountability works is when everyone is accountable. And, when everyone is accountable, then accountability becomes very powerful. People working for a company will be accountable to ensure that they do the best job that they can and the company will be accountable to the government for the taxes and licences they must have, to their employees to ensure that they provide a good working environment and good wages and to their share holders for the money that was invested to create the company in the first place.
I for one, would be thrilled to know that when I buy stock in a company that every individual in that company from the CEO down to the janitor is accountable for doing everything in their power to make sure that the company performs at peak efficiency. And, if I was running a business, I would expect that anyone I hired as an employee would be accountable to me to put all of their skills, talents, education and effort into the duties they performed for me every day they were at work. In return, I would be accountable to my employees to be certain that I provided a safe workplace, adequate pay and benefits, proper training and that I would run the company responsibly and in a way that would ensure that it would be sustainable. That is the power of accountability, everyone being answerable to everyone else.
Politicians passing laws making business people accountable while they themselves refuse to be accountable to anyone will not let the power of accountability work like it should. For accountability to work, everyone has to be accountable to someone else.
When I was a child, children were accountable to their parents. Parents were accountable to their children to ensure that they had a place to live, clothes to wear and food to eat, The parents were also accountable to their employer to make sure that they gave 100 percent or more effort to their duties in exchange for a pay cheque. Not only did the power of accountability work well, but it resulted in respect. Employees respected their employers and the employers respected the workers. Children respected their parents, their teachers and authority figures. Most people
respected the law and everyone knew that if they broke the law that they would be punished for it.
Recently there have been some high profile cases where company executives have been held accountable for their actions with respect to illegal things they did in relation to running their companies. Some have been jailed and others are awaiting their “day in court.” Unfortunately these attempts to make people accountable have been sporadic at best.
Accountability is powerful because those who acknowledge the reality of living in a civilized society are able to find solutions, suitable to everyone, that shape their destiny and the destiny of society as a whole. Accountability means more than just doing your job. Accountability must become a component of the basic skill set of everyone involved in the competitive enterprise of the future. Accountability cannot and will not become a part of the skill set of future businesses and their employees unless and until they are using records management systems that enable them to conduct their business efficiently and effectively while at the same time fully and accurately documenting each and everything they do.
Also, young people we bring into our organizations must be taught about accountability because most of the time they have not developed that level of maturity when they first enter the workforce. To develop accountability in personnel, you must foster accountability by believing in its power and through your own actions demonstrate that you yourself are accountable. As even the greenest of project managers know, without individual accountability and responsibility, projects will tend to flounder. And, when projects flounder, the company is in trouble.
The crisis in accountability becomes particularly acute when it comes to disclosure of information that is not financial. At a time when many companies crank out reams of quality data, customer satisfaction data, employee satisfaction data, turnaround time data, environmental management data, equal employment data, charitable giving data, employee treatment data and other miscellaneous data, they spend too little time examining how they can use the data for gaining advantages through both internal and external reporting and public accountability. All this information sits in storage somewhere and only comes to light when the company is trying to deflect criticism. The rest of the time it just sits there gathering dust. If you have this information, use it. If you do not have it, why not? People need to see that you are accountable and proud of it.
One of the root causes of the accountability crisis is that many company boards of directors do the bidding of the chief executive, as opposed to having a chief executive who does the bidding of the board of directors. If the CEO is not accountable, and the board of directors has abrogated its responsibility by failing to hold the CEO accountable, then the company is, for all intents and purposes, out of control.
As members of a civilized society, each of us has a responsibility to ensure that companies that we work for or hold shares in do not get out of control. The way we can do this is by ensuring that we are accountable for everything that we do and that we hold others accountable for what they should do. In this way, we can get the power of accountability working for all of us and the world will be a much better place because of it.