The Surprising Truth about Accountability

Managing from the Inside Out

Accountability has been a cornerstone of the Vistage experience since Bob Nourse gathered a group of non-competing business owners in Milwaukee in the 1950s.
Bob – then an owner of a family business with big decisions he needed to make – brought his issue to a group that resembles today’s Vistage groups worldwide. Once Bob’s issue was processed and he told his peers the action he was committed to taking, his fellow business owners said something like, “Okay, let’s meet again in 30 days and see what’s happened.”

That’s what accountability looks like.

Accountability is More Than a Conversation

Somewhere along the way accountability has come to be viewed as micromanagement or as an emotional, mean-spirited conversation or even punishment.

It can be all of those things, but it doesn’t have to be any of them.

Practiced effectively, accountability is more than a conversation and it’s definitely not punishment. It’s a way of thinking and acting all the time and ultimately trumps any financial, intellec­tual, structural, or technological ability. The reason is simple: Accountability is not based on circumstance but rather on an attitude of accomplishing a task or achieving an objective despite circumstance.

And it starts at the top – with you. Before you can hold others accountable, you must hold yourself accountable.

“Of course,” you say. Yet if that conclusion is so logical, what causes so many of us to fail to take the action we know we need to take?

For one thing, it’s usually easier to say something than it is to do it.

But it’s more than that.

A Support System for Winners

Digging deeper, I interviewed senior executives at some of the world’s most admired companies, including Marriott, The Container Store, Ernst & Young, Herman Miller, Nucor, Sony and Southwest Airlines. I also interviewed CEOs who are Vistage members.

In each case, these high performers have taken the time to answer for themselves these questions:

  • What do I stand for?
  • What do I want?
  • Are my actions consistent with my beliefs, commitments and goals?

So here’s the surprising truth about accountability:  It’s almost impossible for a person – whether they are a company executive, a Vistage Chair, a spouse or a parent – to hold another person accountable who hasn’t figured out what they want and are committed to the difficult work of getting it.

Bob Nourse knew what he wanted.  He held himself accountable. And his group was there to offer support.

Accountability is not punishment.

Just the opposite:  Accountability is a support system for winners.

Copyright © 2015 Bustin & Co.

Greg Bustin chairs three Vistage groups in Dallas. He speaks to groups around the world on accountability, and his newest book – Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill) – was named one of the best business books of 2014 by Soundview. Contact Greg at greg.bustin@bustin.com or visit www.bustin.com.


Category : Leadership

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About the Author: Greg Bustin

Greg Bustin is a 15-year Vistage Master Chair with two Chief Executive groups, a Key Executive group and an Emerging Leader group in Dallas. He is also a Vistage speaker and has delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five conti

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