Accountability – Are You Working in OZ?

Carolyn Courage, CHRP

Carolyn Courage

“Accountability breeds response-ability.” Stephen R. Covey

One of my favourite business books is The OZ Principle by Tom Smith. I read it for the first time about 8 years ago and I still quote from the book today. It not only relates to work, but home life too. Accountability is a very important trait to possess and demonstrate. If you want to brush up on this principle, read on.

I am a big fan of the Wizard of OZ, so when this book came across my desk I thought it must be great because of the title. I soon discovered that I could relate to the analogies and that they made sense. The main principle of the book is: ‘Above the Line, Below the Line’. Simply put, if you are above the line you are Accountable and if you are below the line, you need to do some work!

When you are above the line you take action; you See the Problem, Own It, Solve It and Do It, enacting the solutions. Finger pointing and the blame game are common in any group or work place. When this happens, morale dips and so does productivity. Instead of seeing the problem and solving it, time is spent blaming others. If we would just pick up the garbage off the ground and stop walking over it, what a wonderful world it would be.

This does not mean we expect people to take the blame for others; it is more of a problem solving approach. This also separates the Leaders from the rest. Those who take action and see it, own it, solve it, do it are the individuals you want on your team.

Those who are ‘Below the Line’ demonstrate victim behaviors. As in the Wizard of Oz, the lion blames his setbacks on his lack of courage, and the tin man on his lack of a heart. When someone is Below the Line, they form excuses, rationalize, and justify, instead of doing something to alleviate the situation. Where I was working at the time, Below the Line also morphed into negative non-team orientated behavior that distracted from productivity.

I wrote a training program based on this book and we rolled it out at my previous work place. It became part of the culture – the terms ‘Above the Line’, ‘Below the Line’ became part of the vocabulary. Below the Line behavior was not tolerated by Management or Peers.

When I discuss Accountability, I still use examples from my years in the Retail world. If we saw a messy pile of clothes on the floor of a change room, we put them away, as the end goal was to sell the clothes and they wouldn’t get sold lying in a heap. If sales were low we were not allowed to sink into the blame game. Sure, mall traffic was light because there was a giant snow storm, but what did you do to welcome those who were currently in the mall into your Store? Were you solutions-oriented and did you think outside the box or did you remain helpless? This is the difference between an Above the Line company and a Below the Line company.

Another great book to read is, ‘Say it Right the First Time’ by Loretta Malandro. I heard the author speak at a conference and her book was a quick and easy read. She says that Accountable communication means being 100% responsible for how your words impact others.  No tolerance for, “I didn’t mean it” or “I was only joking!” It also means that people take on 100% responsibility for how their actions affect the business and others. This practical book is one that I make a habit of passing on to our company Leaders to read.

Two inspiring books to add to your list! There you go!

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