by Meridith Levinson

Why IT Leaders Must Demonstrate Accountability

Jan 07, 2010

An executive coach offers three concrete reasons why IT leaders should demonstrate accountability in their organizations.

On Tuesday, I interviewed Linda Galindo, an executive coach who has a new book out about accountability: The 85% Solution: How Personal Accountability Guarantees Success – No Nonsense, No Excuses (Jossey-Bass 2009). Galindo and I talked about the meaning of accountability, why so many people, from elected officials to top executives, seem to shirk it today, and what accountability means to CIOs.

Galindo maintains that the United States is experiencing a crisis of accountability. Instead of owning up to our individual and collective problems and resolving to solve them, we point fingers, make excuses, and rationalize our actions and decisions, she says.

It’s an argument that helps Galindo sell books, for sure. But consider the billions of dollars the government has spent bailing out the banks that created the financial crisis and the severance packages awarded to top executives who ran their companies into the ground. Then there’s the fact that the elected officials who deregulated the financial services industry (which some economists argue led to the irresponsible lending practices that precipitated the financial industry’s meltdown) keep on getting re-elected (though that may change later this year). Catch her drift?

“The last decade was nothing but rewarding [to those] not being accountable,” says Galindo.

I posed the following question to her: If the American system—our system of government, our economic system—doesn’t reward accountability, and in fact rewards the opposite, why should anyone care about being accountable for their personal or professional actions?

Her response: “Paying for a lack of accountability is not sustainable.”

Point taken.

To further make the case for personal and professional accountability, Galindo discussed the performance of IT organizations where a lack of accountability runs rampant, from the CIO down.

“When a mistake is made, everyone runs for their corner and abandons ship,” she says.

The attitude, ‘I didn’t pick these people to work with and I can’t control them,’ sets up people—and organizations—for dysfunction and failure, she says.

What’s more, adds Galindo, “Not holding people accountable punishes the best performers.”  (See How to Best Hold Managers Accountable)

Accountability, she argues, leads to superior performance. In the U.S., we’ve certainly seen the dire consequences brought about by a systemic lack of accountability.

Does Galindo’s argument for personal and professional accountability resonate with you? When a mistake happens on your watch—whether it was caused directly or indirectly by some decision you made or action you took—how do you own up to it?