Business Growth & Strategy

You ARE ‘Somebody’!!!! Tear Down Barriers and Hold People Accountable

“I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that, then I realized I was somebody.”

— Lily Tomlin

Accountability is like the Lily Tomlin quote. As in, “somebody should hold them accountable. Oh, that would be me.”

Why is it so darn hard to hold people accountable for results? The true answer is that it’s hard because it all starts inside ourselves. And frequently, it doesn’t get past there.

The internal barriers to holding people accountable are real and they are significant. Let’s identify the common barriers so that it’s possible to acknowledge them and then find a way to get past them.

  1. Fear. This comes in a variety of forms.
    • “If I hold others accountable, I’ll need to be accountable too.”
    • “They won’t like me.”
    • “I may have contributed to the problem.”
    • Laziness.  It’s easier to do it yourself. Highly competent people move up the ladder because they’re … highly competent. So it’s easy to see that it’s slower and harder to teach others.
  2. Ego. We all love to believe that no one else can do it as well as we can (or, in the exact way that we do it).
  3. Painful.
    • “What if I hold them accountable and I find out they really can’t do the job. THEN what will I do?”
  4. Guilt.
    • “I hired the wrong person.”
    • “I didn’t train them.”
    • “I’ve never held them accountable before; how can I start doing it now?”
  5. Lack of Knowledge. If the employee you’re holding accountable gives you a plausible excuse such as being too busy, are you knowledgeable enough about what’s on their desk to know if it’s true? Do you know what the real priorities are?

All of these internal barriers come bubbling to the surface when it’s time to hold people responsible for results. We don’t say these things out loud of course. We just think them. And then find some reasonable-sounding reason to accept less than the best.

Responsibility starts with ourselves. Find a way to overcome these personal hurdles and you’ll be on your way to creating a responsible (and highly effective) organization.

Jane Adamson is the CEO and founder of Phoenix-based Sherpa Advisory, which guides companies through the growth stages that require mid-size companies to “do” all the things that large companies do, but with limited resources.   She has been the president of two manufacturing/service organizations, sat on industry and professional boards, orchestrated the successful turnaround of a financially distressed organization, and implemented numerous performance management processes. Jane can be reached at:

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Category: Business Growth & Strategy

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