Accountability versus responsibility; a big question ?
I recorded this video many years ago (the different hairstyle is a giveaway!) and yet the topic is as important today as it ever ways. So much so we have had the video transcribed for your benefit below.
[Please excuse any typing errors. This is a direct transcription from the video recording above for your benefit.]
Welcome to another leadership conversation session with Ruth Sanderson from blue pea POD. The question I’ve got for Ruth today is; I’d like, as a leader in my organisation, Ruth, to be giving people more responsibility.
I know there’s lots of talk about delegation and empowerment in many organisations, not just ours. Can you share a few tips for us on how we can effectively give people more responsibility?
There’s one thing that is critical when it comes to responsibility. As a leader, the first thing you need to get clear on is responsibility versus accountability.
Before you do any delegation, before you do any empowerment, it’s imperative to get clear on the difference between responsibility and accountability because they’re different.
Could you expand a little bit on those differences then? Because I know we probably interchange those words.
Yes. It’s very, very common. Responsibility is when somebody turns around and says,” I have given you this particular task, and you are responsible for delivering the task in a way.” We tend to go, “I’ve done the task. I haven’t done the task,” that’s it.
Accountability is the sense of ownership for an outcome that’s beyond the task. It’s almost like the bigger picture. So, I’ll do whatever it takes to get the outcome.
Starting here, I can think it involves A, B, or C. As I’m doing it, I may then also see that it involves this and this. Because I’m accountable for the outcome, the result, and I have that sense of ownership, I will do whatever it takes.
Now when I say do whatever it takes, I don’t mean that I must be the one that does it. Sometimes, I’m the one that says, “I need to have a conversation with that person.” So, I do whatever it takes to make sure it happens, but all the time I have kept ownership of the outcome.
When people are just ‘doing responsibility’, and as you delegate down, you want them to have that sense of responsibility, but things can fall through the cracks because it’s like; “Well, I’m just doing A, B, and C.”
It’s almost like the responsibility part is very top task focused, is what I’m picking up, whereas the accountability is accountable for something much bigger coming to fruition.
Yes, the outcome.
So, I feel a sense of ownership, right?
• I can feel a sense of ownership for a brand.
• I can feel a sense of ownership for my business.
• I can feel as sneeze of ownership for a project.
• I can feel a sense of ownership for me, so I am accountable for all my actions.
And it moves it on a level from responsibility. When you’re working in a team, and you’ve got several people doing things, one person always must be accountable.
Everybody else can be responsible for things, but one person always must be responsible because then they won’t let things fall through the cracks. If nobody feels accountable, everybody’s doing ‘responsible’.
You see that fabulously in silo management because that’s when things … It’s like, “Well that’s the job of that department. That’s the job of that department.”
“That’s not my job,” is the language that’s often heard isn’t it?
Well, that’s probably the most I’ve understood about the difference between those two things, so thank you. That was great.
About blue pea POD
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