Living our Core Values – Accountability

As Park University nears its 140th anniversary, President David Fowler has championed a renewed commitment to our core values, and as part of that continued effort, we have invited Roger Dusing, associate vice president and chief Human Resources officer, to join us as a contributing author to the Pirate Insider. This monthly series will highlight each of the core values, sharing examples of how they are applicable to daily life.

Our first installment is on Accountability — We expect accountability for our actions at all levels, to each other and to Park University.

I believe that the term ACCOUNTABILITY has gotten a bad rap. In the media these days, about the only time you hear “accountability” is when something has gone wrong and there is a call to see who will be held accountable. In other words, who will be punished because they didn’t do their job right? Or, maybe they are the leader of an organization that was not successful and regardless of the circumstances, it was their fault. Accountability is shouted a bit like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland shouting “Off with their heads.” If being accountable means that if you fail you will be punished, why would anyone want to be accountable?

One of Park University’s core values is: We expect ACCOUNTABILITY for our actions at all levels, to each other and to Park University. We need to make sure that what we don’t mean, is that is if you don’t do your job, you’ll get punished. We need a richer definition of accountability.

According to Andy Wood and Bruce Winston, accountability is much more than that. They define Leader Accountability as:

  • the leader’s willing acceptance of the responsibilities inherent in the leadership position to serve the well-being of the organization;
  • the implicit or explicit expectation that he/she will be publicly linked to his/her actions, words, or reactions; and
  • the expectation that the leader may be called on to explain his or her beliefs, decisions, commitments, or actions to constituents.

I like this definition. It has enough context to help us really understand accountability. First, while you can assign a task, you can’t assign accountability – it has to be willingly accepted. However, if you accept a leadership role, you must understand that accepting the role, means accepting the accountability that comes with it. Secondly, you can’t hide from accountability. You must expect that you will be publicly linked to what you do and say. Accountability is visible. Finally, your constituents; which may be your boss, your peers, your subordinates, or your customers; have the right to ask you to explain why you did what you did.

You’ll note that there is no reference in this definition to punishment. What there is, is this: if you don’t do what you committed to do, you should expect that someone will notice, and they have the right (in fact the obligation) to ask you about that, and you have an obligation to explain. For some, that will be uncomfortable enough that it may feel like punishment. In other circumstances, The University might decide that there needs to be disciplinary action as a result of whatever the behavior was, but that action is, in itself, is not all that accountability it about.

At Park, we strive for accountability, not to avoid punishment, but because organizations whose members behave in an accountable fashion work better. Those organizations are open and honest. People are upfront with issues and concerns. They set and achieve realistic goals. They challenge each other do more, and to always, ALWAYS, do what’s best for the University, not for themselves.

Now, the next challenge is the manner in which we hold each other accountable, and that is rooted in our next core value – CIVILITY and RESPECT.