The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Dealing with accountability

“What are the measures when they fail?” is one of the most frequent questions when people start an accountability process.

It’s how managers seek to lead and sometimes parents try to educate.

One side of the medal is the idea to keep motivation high, the other side is the hope to have some control over the outcome.

It’s a quest which is based on the idea of extrinsic motivation. Or said differently, it’s the myth, that something outside of us can make us achieve our objectives more effectively than we can ourselves.

Management has worked like this in the last century, contrasting rewards and punishment in the hope to enhance results. Finding themselves now with bonus programs that don’t work as expected and more responsibility than ever before.

Once people can rely on external guidance, they can make themselves dependent on it. Most often it means that they feel like victims of the system, not knowing how to choose other solutions. Fear of failure sets in and gains more importance. Feeling the need to cover up errors, makes accountability impossible.

Motivation works when people decide for themselves what they want and can achieve. When they are willing to be accountable. And when they find a way to be accountable.

Accountability needs at least two people. One who is accountable, one who listens.

That is where accountability buddies or groups can help.

People who care for our achievements, who want to hear about them, who are willing to help when there is a need to discuss results, who felicitate overachievement can create a space for accountability. As a group, they provide a safe environment to share what is happening and discuss the way forward. In such a group, there is trust in each other. It is based on the belief that the participants are willing to be accountable.

And yet, sometimes it doesn’t work.

There are times when the environment loses its safety. It happens when members start to shame one another when results don’t meet expectations. It’s when the old management idea reappears, applying outside pressure in the hope to make things happen.

In other times problems start when individual members stop being accountable. This change in attitude has an impact on group culture. Members who feel let down start to reduce their engagement and become less accountable too. It’s easier than to face the mirror others put up.

These dynamics are a typical movement of culture. Culture helps us see how to belong, when a change happens, people use it to adapt to one another.

It still is no reason to shame anyone. A shift in culture can show that the task the group had set out to achieve might not be valid for all the group members anymore. Either it has become difficult to achieve due to the loss of safety or it simply isn’t relevant for all anymore.

In both cases, it is the group that needs to adapt. It can decide on membership or give up being an accountability group.

Individuals decide to be accountable. Groups provide the space to be accountable.



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