Accountability: One Throat to Choke or One Hand to Shake?

“Accountability breeds response-ability.” – Stephen R. Covey, author Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

To help people to understand the point of accountability, I’ve often used this phrase:

One Throat to Choke or One Hand to Shake

I said it in short form, in a recent meeting – just One Throat to Choke – when we talked about what happens when we lack accountability, let the ball drop and then blame each other. One of the executives said he preferred ‘one hand to shake’ and the whole room started laughing.

As we discussed it, it was clear that that many people think of accountability as a consequence or a negative – as one throat to choke.

But in reality, there’s also a positive side to accountability: people know that they own something and then get a sense of satisfaction when it’s been achieved. One hand to shake.

Or, as someone said, one back to pat.

The most important thing is that, no matter what, accountability must be clear in an organization or on a project so that people know who the point person is. Ideally, we then get the opportunity to shake one hand – or many – because when one person truly has a sense of ownership the whole team gets a chance to win.

“Hold everybody accountable? Ridiculous!” – Edwards Deming, mathematical physicist who inspired the rise of Japan’s economic post-war recovery.

The Challenge

  • Are you and your team clear about who is truly accountable for key KPIs, projects or processes?

Special thanks to John Shea, President, Power and Maintenance, Material Handling Services.