Stop Curling Up Like a Porcupine!
By Roger Hall
“That’s not my job.”
“Sorry…I can’t help you. That’s the marketing department’s problem.”
don’t know anything about that.”
are just a few of the phrases that reign in organizations that lack
accountability. Call it “the blame game,” “skirting responsibility,”
or even “CYA.” But whatever you call it, the results are the same:
Since no one wants to be accountable, the company isn’t sharp and
doesn’t respond quickly enough to market shifts or customer demands.
As a result, opportunities are missed, and profits gradually
Lacking accountability can include seemingly small and trivial
things, such as being late for meetings or not returning phone calls
in a timely manner, or it can encompass gross errors in judgment,
such as not telling the customer service department about a new
product launch or ignoring budgetary restraints and spending wildly.
But whether the oversight is small or large, the lack of
accountability quickly sends a message to others—namely that you
don’t care and can’t be counted on. Eventually the attitude spreads
to others, and before long customers, vendors, and other outsiders
also perceive the company’s lack of accountability.
some respects, people who lack accountability are a lot like the
porcupine—those prickly creatures that live in the wild. The
porcupine defends itself by curling up in a ball and protects itself
with 30,000 outwardly pointed quills. Predators cannot penetrate
this defense mechanism. This typifies many employees’ attitudes and
actions. So when people are not accountable, they symbolically curl
up like a porcupine, leaving lots of quills on the floor of halls
and meeting rooms.
many people associate a lack of accountability with large
bureaucratic agencies, the fact is that companies of all sizes
suffer from this malaise. Fortunately, you can take steps to bring
accountability back to your organization and end the blame game once
and for all. The following guidelines will help.
the first step:
people believe that accountability must start with the CEO and
trickle down. While it certainly helps if the CEO can model the
appropriate behavior, the fact is that anyone—even you—can begin
instilling accountability in your organization (or at least your
department). Therefore, be the person who goes the extra mile. Find
the answer to people’s questions, even if it really isn’t your job.
Rather than complain about low numbers, pitch in and do your part to
bring the numbers up. Volunteer. Join committees. Keep your
appointments. Do what you say you’ll do…when you say you’ll do it.
your actions visible so others see the behavior you’re modeling.
Help people understand that being accountable is not a bad
thing—that it’s simply part of being a team. Make sure others see
that you’re not just focusing on self-preservation and that you’re
looking out for the best interests of the entire department or
company. Yes, this will require you to step out of your comfort zone
and work a little harder. However, as your actions begin to rub off
on others, you’ll be on your way to creating an environment that
fosters communication and helpfulness—two qualities of a winning
sensitive to others:
of your peers approaches you (someone at the same professional level
as you in the company) and asks for an update on a project that’s
going on somewhere in your department, don’t say, “I don’t know.
You’ll have to ask Mary. That’s not my job.” Such an answer affects
how the other person perceives you. At best, you become known as
someone unreliable, uninformed, and uncaring. At worst, people
believe you to be simply incompetent. Instead, see any questions
from the other person’s perspective. If they’re coming to you for
information, then they honestly believe you can help, so do so.
of being sensitive to others also means being bold. Take a risk.
Reach out to others. Reconnect with colleagues and customers.
Solicit feedback from others. The ancient Egyptians had a saying:
“Hear like a porcupine,” meaning that you need a highly acute sense
of hearing. So really hear what people want, and then deliver. Don’t
just wait for management to mandate something or for your boss to
ask you to deliver information. Instead, take the initiative to
start something on your own. When you do, others will take notice
and will appreciate your actions.
accountability to differentiate:
companies that don’t play the blame game and that actually have
accountability in place, you can see a true sense of
differentiation. Think about it. When you need to purchase clothing
or furniture, you know there are many different stores to choose
from. And while price is often a factor for consideration, you
likely choose to patronize the store that offers a certain level of
customer service that you expect. If it’s a small purchase, like a
T-shirt and some shorts, then any store may do. But if it’s a large
purchase, such as a wedding gown or a business suit, then you’ll
likely choose the store where you feel a sense of accountability
among the employees.
many companies, the executives sit in the boardroom for days trying
to figure out how to differentiate their products. After all, a
shirt is a shirt, and a phone is a phone. Often, what really makes
the difference to customers are the employees. So suppose you have
500 employees on the payroll. You’re already are paying these
people. You likely don’t need to increase your ad budget if you can
make a difference with your employees. That is, you need to train
them to be responsive not just to you, but to your customers, to
your organization, and to your distributors. That can be your
difference right there. As they say, “People make the company.” Yes,
it’s a cliché, but it’s true.
the Beast Within:
wild, porcupines are naturally destructive creatures. They eat
aluminum signs, treated lumber, ax handles, tires, and automobile
brake hoses. People, too, can be destructive if they don’t have the
proper guidance and/or motivation. That’s when a lack of
accountability reigns. Therefore, take the steps to bring a sense of
accountability into your company and end the blame game once and for
all. When you do, your company will experience greater rewards and
profits, with fewer prickly headaches.
Read other articles and learn more about
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and