Women of Power: Accountability Counts - Black Enterprise

Women of Power: Accountability Counts

I’m thinking that the word “accountability” will be among 2009’s buzz words. Now more than ever it’s a term we all need to be familiar with because it spans both our professional and personal profile.

In the session, Accountability: How to Avoid the Blame Game at the Women of Power Summit, a number of scenarios and questions were candidly thrown on the table regarding the topic in an effort to challenge women to think of accountability as an obligation to yourself and those around you.

“A sense of personal responsibility,” says session moderator Marilyn Johnson about the top thing she hopes attendees took away from the session. “This is so they are holding themselves to a much higher standard that when they walked in this room.”

As vice president of market development for IBM, Johnson (who has been attending the summit since its inception) believes we as women of color also owe it to ourselves to maintain a “sisterhood accountability;” however she realizes that’s not often easy to construct. “We’re so busy and we’re so tired of arm wrestling ourselves with all the powers that be that it’s sometimes not easy to think about others,” says Johnson. “You’re so busy wrestling that you can’t free up a hand to reach out and grab somebody else and bring them along.” But of course, it’s imperative that we do so. She adds, “We’ve got to stop and situate ourselves in a much bigger scenario and that’s evident right now. It’s not only bigger than us but it starts with us.”

Such relationships segmented directly into the importance of mentorship. Lisa Pickrum, executive vice president and chief operating office for the RLJ Corp. was one of the panelists and sees mentorship as a two-way street just like accountability. “Go out get a mentor and really set some goals about what it is they want out of that relationship and what they can bring to the relationship,” says Pickrum.

She adds that among the charges is to utilize the relationship to uncover how you can be more accountable as well as hold other people accountable without pointing figures.

How best to handle being thrown “under the bus” in a professional manner:
o Address the impropriety. Is it a recurring problem?
o Decipher the situation. Consider their intent. Remember that there’s a time to act and a time not to, know the difference.
o Be sure there’s nothing else. Be sure not hit by the same problem just as you’re trying to get up and dust yourself off.
o Let them know. Identify the person and have an honest professional conversation with them.
o No tears. Men of any color don’t know how to handle this within the workplace.
o Results. Did you learn anything while “lying” there?

Recommended reading:
o The Speed of Trust by Steven M. R. Covey
o Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn From the Code of the West by James P. Owen

The Women of Power Summit runs Feb. 11-14 at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida.

Tennille M. Robinson is the small business editor at