The Power of Accountability in Leadership: Investor’s Business Daily Interview with Betty Shotton

Take Responsibility Instead Of Blaming Others


Posted 07/19/2012 01:30 PM ET

Hold yourself accountable for outcomes instead of waiting for others to do it for you. The concept will spread across your firm, productivity will climb and you’ll develop core values in the organization such as honesty and trust.

If you tell an employee you’ll do his performance appraisal by a certain date and you miss the deadline, you lose credibility. “Then trust has eroded, and it can happen over the smallest thing,” Betty Shotton, CEO of Ocracoke Island, N.C.-based consultant Liftoff Leadership, told IBD.

Battle the tide. It’s tough for many people to hold themselves accountable because of their own obstacles, says Joe Tye, CEO of Solon, Iowa-based leadership training firm Values Coach. They have negative thoughts and low self-esteem, so they wait for someone else to set deadlines. There’s no need to hold off, though. “It begins by facing up to those inner barriers,” he said.

Set expectations. Be clear about what you want people to achieve. Let them do it their way, as long as they get done what you want. Then they’ll take initiative, Tye said: “Sometimes that means biting your tongue. You want to say, ‘I wouldn’t have done it that way.’ But you have to be willing to accept the fact they might do it their own way.”

Measure yourself. Do a self-assessment to gauge how well you accept responsibility rather than blame others. Shotton’s firm offers a test that asks leaders to figure out what they can do to rectify a situation rather than point the finger elsewhere. “It’s simple, but it’s a good reminder to accept responsibility,” she said.

Get others’ input. Ask a coach or mentor whether you’re holding yourself accountable. Shotton suggests getting 360-degree feedback from co-workers, including those above and below you. You might be surprised. “Leaders are often taken aback if they stop and look at the reality around them” she said.

Develop patterns. Tye’s employees focus on a different principle each day. When the firm targets self-accountability, the workers tell themselves they won’t let barriers get in the way of being responsible for hitting their goals. “They’re simple rituals that remind us who we are when we’re being our best,” he said.

Share the load. Get peers to hold each other accountable. Tye uses a pickle challenge to keep employees’ attitudes positive. If someone hears a co-worker being negative, the witness makes sure the complainer puts a quarter in the pickle jar. “It’s a way to keep each other accountable for the attitude they bring to work,” Tye said.

Point fingers inward. Learn to say to yourself, “I’m responsible. What can I do?” Watch yourself when you blame others, Shotton said: “That’s basically pushing off responsibility to someone else.”

Set an example. Shotton lauds Reed Hastings for doing that at video provider Netflix(NFLX). The CEO said publicly he screwed up after the company split its subscription model and raised prices last year, angering many customers.

Gain efficiency. If each person in a workplace holds himself accountable for the jobs, the boss doesn’t have to do it. No one questions whether the assigned job will get done. Productivity soars.
Shoe seller did that with its core values, Tye says. It gives customer service reps free rein to make decisions.

Build a culture. You can get people to keep each other in line, but only if it’s part of the firm’s value system, Shotton says.
“Then it allows people to admit mistakes,” she said.

About LiftOff Leadership

Betty Shotton is a nationally recognized leadership author and motivational speaker. With a lifetime of experience as a CEO and Entrepreneur, she is passionate about the responsibility and opportunity that leadership has to create a magnificent future. Her audiences are inspired to seek broader perspectives and climb to higher altitudes as they face challenging and volatile business & economic climates. Her most requested presentations are A Journey to Exceptional Leadership, Defying Gravity & High Altitude Leadership. You can see her in action on YouTube ( She blogs ( and writes. "Liftoff Leadership, 10 Principles for Exceptional Leadership", her first book, sold out in 18 months. She is working on her next. Visit her website www.liftoffleadership; it is loaded with leadership resources. She welcomes your interest via FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
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