Is Control a Pre-requisite for Accountability?

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Is it reasonable to hold employees accountable for things they don’t have control? We tend to agree that it is unfair.

Let’s take a look at whether control is a pre-requisite for assigning accountability.

For example, a sales rep doesn’t have full control on how a prospect would respond to a proposal. Does it mean that she can’t be held accountable for sales and revenue growth?

The sales rep performs many activities. She reaches out to the prospect, learns about his needs, identifies how the prospect would benefit from the products she has to offer, and positions the sale in a favourable way while explaining the values that the competition can’t provide. Does she have full control of the sale? I would say no. But she has tremendous influence throughout the sales cycle.

Another example, the client support department for a financial service company doesn’t have full control on how expedient an account can be set up. Incidentally, the bottleneck is in the compliance department. Would the client support group not be accountable for the account setup turnaround time?

Even though the bottleneck is tied to compliance verification, the culprit is incomplete information. And this hinges on how organized the client support group is in gathering the necessary information from the client. In this case, the client support group plays a key role and hence, should be held accountable with the compliance department.

In both examples, the work performed by the sales rep and the client support department have influence on the outcomes. It is reasonable to hold them accountable.

When assigning accountability, it is better to look at influence as a gauge rather than control.

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