Leading Safety, and leading Safely - Part 3 – Being accountable - Baines Simmons
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Leading Safety, and leading Safely – Part 3 – Being accountable

Everyone is accountable, aren’t they?  Safety is everyone’s responsibility.  In fact, what we normally tend to hear when people say that is ‘Safety is everyone (else’s) responsibility’!  Being accountable for a behaviour, standard or task implies not only the responsibility to make sure it happens but having control of those things that affect it.  In safety leadership, teams and individuals are often unclear of what they are accountable for, don’t have the right competencies, or don’t have the authority or access needed to achieve the goal.

I heard a statement at a recent conference that really brought it home – “we seem to leave our humanity and care for others at home when we go to work”. As a leader, surely you are accountable for the care of your team?

Encouraging and providing real accountability challenges organisations to nominate, trust and empower teams and individuals to deliver, but also challenges leaders to care, to celebrate and congratulate those teams and individuals when the accountability results in successful delivery.

Effective leadership and accountability includes a commitment to support and assist teams in delivering their tasks, most importantly providing them with the resources, influences and authority.  Without the tools, any accountability exists in the minds of the boss alone.

But accountability must be real and tangible too, not just written down in some manual that is gathering dust, – either real or virtual!  It is commonly observed that individuals are rarely held to account for delivering against their responsibility, and that ‘the organisation’ is at fault when tasks are not completed or support is not provided.

Recognition is also rarely seen as part of holding people to account because we live in a world where accountability tends to hold negative connotations.  Equally, people are rarely trusted and empowered to deliver on those challenges for which they are deemed accountable. Accountability must reflect the level of influence held.  Safety Leadership influence can be articulated as an inverse pyramid, where the higher you are in the organisation, the greater the level of influence you have.  Matching accountability and influence is key if the safety objectives are to be achievable by the team or individual.

“Accountability can happen only when expectations are clear” – Blanchard

  • How well do your teams truly understand what they are accountable for?
  • What evidence is there that they feel empowered to get on and deliver?
  • How confident are you that they have the tools to meet the challenges you have set?
  • How often do you celebrate and reward your teams when they get things right and deliver against their objectives?