This Forbes article on the World’s Most Surprising School System started a thought on some current management practices. We see a lot of formal emphasis within current IT management around accountability, however trust is rarely mentioned. Within the UK military environment, trust is such an important factor that is formally defined in doctrine publications:

“Trust is an essential trait amongst leaders – trust by seniors in the abilities of their subordinates, and by juniors in the competence and support of their seniors. Trust must be earned, and actions that undermine trust must meet with strict censure. Trust is a product of confidence and familiarity. Confidence amongst comrades results from demonstrated professional skill. Familiarity results from shared experience and a common professional philosophy.”

In the same document trust is mentioned on 25 pages, accountability on 3 pages.

HandshakeAccountability is a powerful management word in the sense that it is difficult to argue against it, but it is also impersonal and detached, i.e. I can talk to you about being accountable and feel my delegation job is done. There are often no consequences of being accountable, even at the highest levels of management as recent years have proved. Trust however is a sensitive and personal issue, rarely discussed in a management context between superiors and subordinates, yet it is trust that is fundamental to successful achievements of joint endeavors. You might even consider self imposed accountability being a consequence of good trust.

So, we should talk more about earning trust rather than making people accountable?
Tagged with: