Welcome to Part 2 of my series on the key elements on C.H.A.O.S. that impact the world of work.
My first article addressed how effective Communication and an understanding of personal, professional, and organizational History affect success. This article will address the third and fourth terms in CHAOS: Accountability and Objectives.
A – Accountability: Often confused with “responsibility,” it has been used and misused by leaders and politicians for far too long. Being responsible means having a mission of some kind to complete. You may be responsible for cleaning an office or running the HR department or leading a multi-billion-dollar distribution center, but typically, that responsibility is shared with others on whom you depend to help you, or at least cooperate with you to complete your duties. Responsibility is a job description. Accountability is a consequence of how well, or poorly you carry out your duties. Accountability is not shared. Usually, accountability comes down to a single person who, while responsible, can be held to account for what goes right or wrong when the mission ends. Accountability demands that one is “answerable” to others for the results of the actions taken or not taken. Airline pilots are clearly responsible for the safe operation of their aircraft, but if it should crash, they may or may not be held accountable for the result. Politicians are the most proficient misusers of these terms and expect to escape accountability by “taking responsibility.” Sorry, but that isn’t sufficient. Being accountable means facing and owning the consequences of your deeds. That may mean some level of shaming or maybe even jail, if the result of your action was egregious enough. The best leaders are both responsible AND accountable. Possible or even probable negative consequences for leaders or decision makers should never prevent the uncomfortable decision, if the greater good is being served. For example, a decision to withdraw troops from a war zone may be unpopular and reflect, at least initially, poorly on the senior leader, but the decision may also be serving a greater good by saving lives and limiting further suffering. In the world of work, accountability breeds trust and confidence. When we know our employees will own up to their mistakes and learn from them; as leaders, we are more likely to have faith in their professionalism and competence going forward. When we see our leaders accept the consequences of their actions (and the actions of those in their charge acting under their direction), we will also become more trusting of those at the top and will likely strive to perform to our maximum capabilities as a means to reflect our trust in them and their principles.
O – Objectives: Organizational objectives guide planning, inform decision-making, and clarify forward movement. Clearly stated objectives provide the rallying point for all employees to meet, concentrate efforts, and help the boss steer the ship in the right direction – one consistent with the objective(s). What happens when objectives are not clearly articulated? Chaos follows confusion. No one really knows what to do, who should do it and how it should be done. Without clearly stated objectives, we are prone to misallocate resources, recruit, hire, and train the wrong people or seek the wrong skills. We won’t know what to monitor or what metrics to use to evaluate how we’re doing? We’d have no clear standards without clear objectives. So, we flounder; we drift; and then we leave in the absence of direction and the lack of clarity of goals and objectives. We leave for something that, on the surface, seems better because we are so utterly confused about what we are supposed to be doing that anything looks better. Clearly identified objectives quiet chaos.
My next article on this topic is coming soon, and in that post, I will address the final term in the CHAOS acronym: Structure. The significance of Structure may surprise you!
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