– Tanya Long 2016/09/15

Accountability is the foundation for all businesses.  I was asked recently if one could have it as a value?  How I see it, is that it relates more to the core culture of your business and to look at what values you can drive to promote an accountable culture…   Without accountability as a base, businesses inherently will have a problem as the business will not operate effectively.  There is however a negative connotation to driving accountability, especially from the people perspective.  We often hear from a manager that they would like to “hold” their people accountable.  Imagine telling that to someone?  The word bubble coming out of their heads might look like – “Really? Am I not accountable already? I’m 100% accountable for the things I do! I’m responsible. I report back on stuff! I’m answerable for my work! I just can’t always be accountable for external circumstances and what other people do!!”

What if we break the concept of accountability down differently?  Craig Hickman and Marcus Nichols, authors of ‘Fix it – getting accountability right’  have coined ‘The OZ Principle’ which breaks accountability down into 4 stages.  “See it, Own it, Solve it, Do it”. Key factors which get in the way of having a truly accountable individual or team, evolves when there is a view that these four steps (or perhaps one of these only) is missing.  It becomes a finger pointing game – “its not me, its him”, “Who is at fault?”, Positions of ignore and deny, “tell me what to do and I will do it”, wait and see, CYA (Cover your butt) syndromes.  And often, people and businesses get stuck here making it impossible to move forward, no-one learns anything.

The journey to transforming this is to take the four steps of “See it, Own it, Solve it, Do it”. Easy-peasy don’t you think? Ironically, if it was so easy, why is accountability one of the biggest dilemmas?  If you were to ask, most individuals would say “this is how I operate”. I often invite people to test this theory.  Do you “See it, Own it, Solve it, Do it” in every situation?  In what situation do you feel disempowered in one of those areas?

The realisation is that it startws within each of us. The way to being truly accountable is to shift our thinking from “I can’t” to “I can” and exactly like persistently going to gym,  to build the muscle over time.

Disney has a saying which is at the core of their culture “It’s not my fault, but it is my problem”.  The shift this brings is key.  Acknowledging a problem and then immediately driving to find a solution. It doesn’t mean that you have to solve all the worlds’ problems, but rather be in a solutions mindset.  Once the mindset change is there, it affects everything. Your heart,  your mind, your passion and your commitment.  It also doesn’t mean that each step of the way needs to be actually done by you, but rather that no matter what, you will own it and see something through to completion.

Seeing it –This is probably the most challenging of the phases, as often due to being held by our own perspectives, we see situations through our own lense.  What is the reality I really need to acknowledge?  How do we see this clearly?

Owning it –  means learning from past success and failures clearly.

The drive should be NOT to HOLD people accountable, but rather to get people to TAKE accountability. The more you hold people accountable the wrong way, the less they become accountable.

This is the foundation and approach in creating an environment where people are biting at the bit to take accountability.  To say  “OK, we’ve identified the problems. Now we’ve got to own this”. Taking accountability is a personal choice.

Sometimes, what gets in the way in organisations is that people say “We are accountable but our leaders aren’t!”.  Leaders need to go first, walk the talk and lead by example.

Interestingly enough, some organisations are good at Owning or Doing etc. Take a good look though at the possible missing elements – See, Own, Solve, Do.  An example that may show up is that you have a team of good soldiers, who are completely focussed on the Do It.  What ways can you think of to get them to work on all 4 steps?  Can you open their minds through dialogue, coaching and/or training to build their skills in the missing areas? If a person has the tools, they have a choice for taking accountability.

What if they still don’t? Then what?  Should you as a leader try to Fix it? Or rather let them move to greener pastures where they can be freed from the accountability way?  Experience shows that if you create the right environment, then most people will start making different choices and owning their situations.  As a leader, one needs to understand that this is a personal journey.  Master the four steps in your own interactions and you will create experiences that develop the right thinking in others.  This reminds me of the Ghandi Eating Sugar story.

There is a story of a woman in India who was upset that her son was eating too much sugar. No matter how much she chided him, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see his great hero Mahatma Gandhi.

She approached the great leader respectfully and said,

Sir, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”

Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, turned and spoke to her son,

Go home and come back in two weeks.”

The woman looked perplexed and wondered why he had not asked the boy to stop eating sugar. She took the boy by the hand and went home.

Two weeks later she returned, boy in hand. Gandhi motioned for them to come forward. He looked directly at the boy and said,

Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.”

The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer.

The boy’s mother turned to Gandhi and asked,

Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”

Gandhi smiled,

Mother, two weeks ago I was still eating sugar myself.”


Domino effect… Easy-peasy.  That is how one fixes it..