In Part 1 of this post we were introduced to a Director of Technology who was facing a major obstacle to achieving her technology vision, a disinterested high school principal. She was frustrated but had settled into a pattern that is pretty familiar in school districts and workplaces across the country:
“I see the problem. I declare that I can’t do anything about it. I complain. I live with the problem”. I’ll add one more nuance to this familiar dance, “I am rarely ever part of the problem”.
The discussion of accountability can be difficult. Usually we have years of past experiences that have cemented our ideas about why things are the way they are. Most certainly, in the past, this DOT tried to get the principal “who didn’t get it” to understand the value of educational technology, to no avail. She may feel, justifiably so, that trying again would be futile, a waste of her time. The principal, for his part, has been getting a lot of positive feedback for the high achievement scores and high college enrollment statistics. Why fiddle with success?
I am not suggesting that the DOT can change the attitude and actions of the principal. None of us has the power to change another person. If you have been married for a few years, you already know that. It is in our power to change only ourselves.
It may help our understanding if we make the distinction between accountability and blame. Blame carries with it a negative judgment; there is some emotional content. When we are blamed for something, we feel as if we have been “bad”. We feel ashamed. When someone blames us we can feel our self worth being questioned. In our “blame-based” view of accountability, we try to avoid being fully accountable by apportioning it. We may feel that we are only 40% accountable for the outcome of an initiative and the Superintendent is 60% accountable. Parsing out accountability this way is merely a different way to play the “blame game”.
An effective leader is always 100% accountable for the desired outcomes. That doesn’t relieve other team members of their own accountability. In fact, in healthy, high performing teams every individual is 100% accountable for the success of the organization and its initiatives. If you are married, or in a relationship, it’s not a 50-50 proposition; it’s a 100%-100% commitment. In the example of the DOT and the principal, both parties are 100% accountable for the achieving the technology vision, as are the teachers and students and the rest of the educational community.
Becoming an effective leader requires a healthy dose of courage and self-honesty. Perhaps the first, and the most difficult step on the leadership journey, is to recognize and embrace our own accountability. This is a prerequisite, if we are to step into our own greatness.
(to be continued)