Virtue #2 – Accountability
The above poster was found at http://tradingphrases.com/Definition-Designs.html
Accountability is nothing more than taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions. If you did it, own up to it.
Sounds all nice and easy doesn’t it? Pretty much one of the first things our parents try to affect deeply into our young impressionable brains. It is one of the few bedrock beliefs we all seem to agree on.
Then why isn’t it happening?
Probably all sorts of reason, but the one that strikes me from personal experience is…it is hard to do.
Several years ago when I was new to the world of manufacturing I carried a tub of parts to the mainline assembly area. As a member of management I was not “officially” supposed to do that. It was my job to make sure the parts got there…not actually do it. So when I was on my way to a meeting at the other side of the plant and happened to glance over and see the guy in the process running out of a particular part I should have reached for my radio, found the appropriate channel, called the assembly line Team Leader, told him the issue (always issue, never problem), then he would have called the Team Leader in Material Handling, he would have called an Assistant Team Leader in Material Handling, who then would have found the person responsible for delivering parts to this particular process, told the associate about the issue, and then that associate would have delivered the tub of parts the twelve feet to the process guy. Instead I picked up the tub of parts and carried them to the process, but because I was in a hurry (I was always in a hurry) when I went to set the parts down, instead of setting them all the way down on the workbench I dropped them then last foot or so. When the tub hit the workbench, one of the metal parts jumped up and struck me in the corner of my nose. I felt it, but I didn’t think too much about it. Besides I had a meeting I needed to get to and I was seriously getting worried about being late and with this company the very first thing they told you, after there would be no discussions of unions, was to never, ever, never be late for a meeting.
Then it happened.
Another manager came running up to me with this look of horror and asked, “Steve, what happened?” Immediately I knew I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t just explain what happened, because it would it mean I had broken one of the rules and I like I said I was still new at the company…so to buy some time while my mind raced like a frazzled bunny in front of a Hummer, I said with as relaxed smile on my face as I could muster, “What do you mean?” She gasped back, “My God look at yourself, you’ve got blood everywhere.”
At this point I should explain I tend to bleed from any wound on my head like a stuck pig, as the saying goes. Yes, I understand all head lacerations tend to bleed more than when they are inflicted on other parts of one’s anatomy, but I spout blood like Mt St. Helens spouts ashes.
So I look at myself…and even I am a little frightened. My shirt is literally soaked in bright red blood. Now the wheels in the old brain are really turning. No more frazzled bunny, I am nearing freakout stage. I stammer, “Uhhhh, I don’t know.”
Yes that is what I said.
She says we got to get you to Med-Check (the in-plant emergency care facility). I think, “Christ there goes my meeting.”
But wait it gets better.
As she is hustling me across the plant to a qualified health care provider, we round a corner and there stands the Plant Manager. Now the Plant Manager is a man who, rumor has it, could break brass balls with his stare. One look at me and he breaks into a jog (this is remarkable because behind his back, off property, in sealed rooms, we would call him Sloth, because of the rate of speed which he usually moved through the plant at).
Here comes the question.
“Steve, what happened?”
I am doomed. Sweet Jesus! I had imagined such a good career with this company.
Again my brain can produce no better reply than, “I don’t know.”
His eyes peer like laser beams from underneath his bushy eyebrows. They lock onto mine, I find it impossible to turn away. He says, “Get his ass to Med-Check before he bleeds to death and I have to fill out even more paper work.”
They didn’t fire me, nor did they order any psychological exams, because they were concerned they had hired an idiot. Years later (when I was considerably more secure in my career with the company) I confessed to the female manager and the Plant Manager what had actually happened. The Plant Manager roared with laughter and then said, “Yeah, you damn fool I watched the whole thing from the other side of the line.”
Be accountable, while it may be painful at the time, people will respect you more. Maybe, more importantly, you will respect yourself more.