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Leadership Traits: Accountability

The Buck Stops Here

This is a picture of the actual sign Harry Truman kept on his desk for visitors to read in the Oval Office during his Presidency between 1945 and 1953.  It reads, “The Buck Stops Here.”

When I was a kid, I misunderstood the intention of this sign.  I thought its slogan meant that the Presidents desk was where money stopped … ‘buck’ being slang for ‘dollar.’  This didn’t make the slightest bit of sense to me.  Later on I figured out the true meaning of the slogan … ‘buck’, as in ‘pass the buck’, the bureaucratic practice of deflecting responsibility, usually in an upward direction.

I’ve been told when one can tell they are in the highest office, at the panicle of an organization.  This epiphany occurs when one turns around, and there is no one else who can take the blame.  If you’ll notice, I didn’t say when you turn around and there is no one else to take the credit.

In my experience, most people you do business with on any level want one thing if they have a problem.  They want to hear this phrase, “I’ll take care of it.”

Remember the name of this girl, LARA AFT.  She is an acronym you can use to help you be more systematic in your accountability.  Here is the acronym expanded:

Listen.  Listen to the person with the complaint, or concern, or issue.

Acknowledge.  Acknowledge the validity of the complaint, concern, or issue.  “I see.”  “I understand.”  Even “Uh-hu!” works.

Repeat.  Repeat, or restate, the complaint, concern, or issue … you want to be on the same page as the other person.

Apologize.  This sounds corny, but it works, say “I’m sorry we were unable to meet your expectations.  What can I do to make this right?”  (Note:  There is no ‘E’ for Excuse after ‘A’ for Aapologize.  We wont say what an excuse is like, but everyone has one, and nobody is particularly interested in hearing it.  What everyone does want is to see a result, or at least to hear that a result is pending.)

Act.  Correct the issue, determine how to prevent the issue from happening again, and put systems in place.

Follow-up.  It’s always a good idea to keep everyone concerned up to date on the progress of the correction.

Track.  Keep an eye on the progress till the systems you’ve placed become routine, then just look in on them every once in a while.

If an attitude of accountability can help get a poor haberdasher from Missouri into the Oval Office, imagine what it can do for you.

Till next time, don’t pass the buck, because you are spectacular, and above such things.

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