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The Power of Accountability

Accountability is a big word that scares many people.  It scares those who fear the act of being held accountable but are quick to hold those around them accountable.  To be successful in any endeavor, we should understand the power of accountability.  Have you noticed that you make your decisions differently when you know that you will be held accountable?  In my work as a safety professional, I find that the safest people are those who are okay with being held accountable for their behaviors.
In dealing with the root cause of an injury in the workplace, I find that the injured person might say,  “I didn’t do anything wrong” – even when it is obvious that they would not have been injured had they followed procedures or been wearing the proper personal protective equipment.  Bottom line is, they are not holding themselves accountable.  Then there is the injured person who when asked, “How did you get hurt?”  answers, “Because I failed to follow the procedure and don my personal protective equipment.”  The first person I described would likely be upset if you said something to them about not following safety procedures or wearing their personal protective equipment. They might even tell you, “Mind your own business.”  The second one would say, “Hey, thanks for pointing that out to me.”  Which one do you want to work with? As for me, I want to work the one who accepts accountability for their actions. Let me share an example.
As a flight instructor, I have the opportunity to work with both types of people and I stay away from the person who does not accept accountability.  One of my friends, Jeff, is a great example of the second guy (pictured making the pre-flight).  He has a successful career as a design engineer and is working on his private pilot certificate.  It is easy to see why Jeff is successful in life and flying because he is open to any information that will improve his odds of flying safe.  Jeff will tell you, “If you see me doing something wrong, speak up!”  Recently, Jeff was getting ready to complete one of his cross-country flights in his training.  Brian, Jeff’s primary instructor was out of town and couldn’t be there to approve Jeff’s flight.  Since Brian and I keep up with how Jeff is doing, I was able to sign him off for his flight.  Jeff is a constant learner and has an attitude of accountability, so I am there for him.  The power of accountability can be seen in the success of those who are willing to be held accountable.
It is not unusual for me to interview someone who has been injured and all they can do is blame others for what they did.  “My supervisor told me to get the job done as quickly as possible, so I didn’t have time to put on my (gloves, safety glasses, face shield, etc.).”  In many cases, you will find that this person’s personal life is similar and produces the same results.
Here’s the kind of thinking that goes through someone’s head who doesn’t understand the power of accountability:
• You can’t imagine the machine you are working on will start while your hand is in it, so you decide not to perform lockout/tagout because it will take too long.
• A confined space entry permit is too much of a hassle when you just need to go in the tank and make a minor adjustment.
• You deserve that new boat and truck you just bought even though you know you can’t afford it.
• You should be able to drive as fast as you want when no other vehicles are present.
This person is the one who takes shortcuts on the job. The reason they can’t pay their bills is because they don’t make enough money (and that’s why their boat, motor home, new car, and house were repossessed.)  This is the same person who is mad at the highway patrolman who gave them a ticket for speeding.
My question is, “Why not thank the highway patrolman for doing his job!”  The obvious attitude you see in a successful person is one who takes responsibility and holds themselves accountable.
Accountability is a powerful tool for being successful in life and safe at work.  As you think about your life and your work consider the times that you have been exasperated by another person who blamed you or others for something they did wrong, who do you want to be most like?  Next time you screw-up, surprise everyone and say, “That was my fault and I’ll work on not letting that happen again.”  Look around the room and you will find everyone with a surprised look on their face.
Be Safe!
Carl Potter

PS: In my Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop, increased accountability is an outcome for participants…
We have several open enrollments of the Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop coming up.  Email carl@potterandassociates.com for information and locations.
Schedule a pilot-Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop to see if it is a fit for your organization.  Ask about the money-back guarantee.

6 Responses to The Power of Accountability

  • Danny MacEachern says:

    i ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, i HAVE TO ADMIT IT WAS THE TRUTH EVEN IF WE DON’T LIKE HEARING IT.

  • Steve Plant says:

    Carl:
    Great article.
    We RECENTLY had to take DISCIPLINARY action on one of our crew foreman for a major safety violation. and ACCORDING to he and his department mgr. it was everyone else’s fault not his.
    i just forwarded this article to them.

    steve.

  • Rick harter says:

    Excellent article. I will use it in my tool box safety meeting.

  • Vic Rodda says:

    I concur, an excellent article and the truth described.

  • Steve darr says:

    wE ARE TRANSITIONING “ACCOUNTABILITY” FOR ALL SAFETY RELATED ASPECTS OF OUR BUSINESS (RETAIL GROCERY) TO OUR CO-MANAGERS (#2 IN CHARGE) IN THE GROCERY STORES AND ARE WORKING ON A TRAINING PROGRAM TO COMMUNICATE AND DEMONSTRATE THIS NEW SET OF RESPONSIBILITIES (ACCOUNTABILITIES!). tHIS ARTICLE WAS TIMELY AND MUCH APPRECIATED. i’M GOING TO FIND A WAY TO WORK IT INTO OUR TRAINING.

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