Accountability – is it the ‘holy grail’?

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Everyone seems to be talking about it.  The executives in our client organisations all want it.  Yet it seems to be the holy grail with only some not most employees demonstrating it.

Firstly what is accountability?  At Vivente, we see ac-count-ability as making, keeping and managing agreements and commitments …you can count on me to..”.  So before I accept accountability for a task, I need to be sure it is specific, can be done on time, on budget and to accepted quality standards so that I am then able to ‘account for the outcome’.  Have I done sufficient planning to be confident of achieving the task?

That all seems straightforward.  So where’s the problem.  David McClelland, eminent organisational psychologist, researched what he described as the need for achievement (n Ach) which sheds some light on the question. He found that psychologically, most people in this world can be divided into two broad groups.  There is a minority which is challenged by opportunity and willing to work hard to achieve something, and the majority which really does not care all that much.  Our hypothesis is that it is these people with high n Ach who not only are willing to commit to a task, they want to.  McClelland’s work suggests it is not because they are born that way, but because of special training they get in the home from parents who set moderately high achievement goals but who are warm, encouraging and not authoritarian in helping their children reach these goals.

So what can be done to build greater accountability in adult workers where the influences of upbringing are well and truly cemented?

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