I got three stitches in my hand recently. I was taking down some drywall from the corner of a basement ceiling. To get it to snap, I was using a utility knife to cut an edge. So, as I pulled the drywall down (can you guess what I did?) while still holding the utility knife in place...the sudden snap of the drywall released my hand onto the blade of the utility knife. A few hours later, after a visit to a local Medicentre, I gained three stitches on my hand.

Needless to say I was a little annoyed with myself when I decided it was a helpful reminder about a critical element in a good safety attitude - accountability.

It's a great word but have you ever noticed that when the Oilers win a hockey game, fans will say "We Won!" and when they lose, fans will say "They lost!". Often our first instinct is to look outside of our own actions for someone else to blame when things don't go our way. The reality is we have two options to make when we have an incident - deflect or accept. 

When we deflect, we are looking for a reason to separate our self from the cause, in some cases to protect our self from the consequences of blame, which in reality, aren't always applied fairly. The problem with this approach though, is that while it may separate you from the cause in your own mind, it also separates you from seeing how to make a full improvement in the work environment.

Accountability is not about ensuring someone can be blamed. It's about accepting the outcome and your role in the event, as well as a commitment to taking corrective action to prevent a reoccurrence of that event. In this case here, I could have deflected it in many ways - the utility knife maker didn't make large enough blade for cutting, the drywall installer didn't portion the pieces right, it was an accidental fluke that won't happen again .. but none of these help. 

Fact is, while a minor injury, I don't want to stab myself in the hand again. So, I'm reminded I need to wear gloves (protective gear even at home). I should have put the utility knife down before attempting to remove the piece of drywall (proper work procedures) and...I thought about my state of mind when it occurred - and it reminded me of something I learned about performance coaching in sports and attention. An interesting idea that would not have it occurred to me if I had decided to deflect instead of accept.

More on that next week...