It is said that responsibility is given, while accountability is taken. One can be given a responsibility, but one must then be held, by herself and others, accountable for the outcome or result of their action, and/or completion of that task or job. What I have found in working with many leaders is that they fail to break down responsibility and accountability enough for others. We hear many times, “We are responsible for this and this.” We hear about shared responsibility and accountability. What this does, though, is increase confusion around who is making the commitment and what that commitment actually means. If we are not specific about where responsibility resides, and if we don’t hold people accountable after the fact, we increase the risk of never getting on with execution. We create a strategy or plan but do not fully implement and realize the benefits of any sustainable changes. And further we fail to build our record of success and our credibility.
Calibrating responsibility and accountability is about getting to ‘the promise’; it is about people understanding their commitments and delivering on them. If something does start to go sideways, it is about those responsible taking action to bring it back into balance or informing others that they require something to change for them to contribute and stand in their commitment. It is about negotiating, and if necessary renegotiating commitments, early as opposed to late in order to sustain personal credibility.