I was recently at an event in Charlotte where I had the chance to meet a man who had made his career working in the cutthroat world of New York newspaper and magazine publishing. We were talking about the slow bleeding death of hard copy magazines and I told him that before she gave it up, they would have to pry US Weekly Magazine out of my wife’s cold, dead, fingers. He smiled and told me that he was the original editor of US Weekly. I was in the presence of celebrity gossip royalty. I couldn’t wait to tell my wife. We talked about journalism and the impact that blogs, social media, and wireless devices have had on the dessimination news and public perception. The good news is that thanks to Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook, we can receive information as it occurs. We followed the World Cup, the Arab Spring Revolution, and Lindsey Lohan’s latest stumble in real time. What can possibly be wrong with that? Accountability. He told me “Patrick, as a journalist, I am bound by rules. Sources must be vetted, information must be validated, opinions are not fact, and wikipedia is not a wellspring of truth. Bloggers, tweeters, and paparazzi are not bound by the same rules of journalism and ethics that I cut my teeth on.
Without accountability, we are doomed to developing a world view based on versions of the truth or outright falsehoods. There is a great line from the 1993 movie Jurassic Park where Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcolm is confronting billionaire John Hammond. He said “I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here. It didn’t acquire any discipline to attain it. You read what others have done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourself so therefore you don’t take any responsibility for it.”
Like good journalism, creating profitable and productive relationships demands accountability. Those relationships are predicated on two fundamental elements…liking and trust. If your customers, teammates, or employees don’t feel that you are accountable for your actions and responsible for the outcomes you produce, then there can be no trust. Would you do business with someone you don’t trust? I wouldn’t. If you are a leader who doesn’t walk the talk, how can you expect your employees to cheerfully fulfill their responsibilities? If you are more concerned with closing a sale than providing value, how can you expect your customers to sing your praises? Build trust…build relationships…build profits.