Why accountability is so important for your organization? Everyone talks about it. Leaders want it. If accountability is not part of your culture, then every effort toward performance improvement will be inefficient and ineffective. How you demonstrate accountability as a leader in your daily work defines the working relationships fundamental to every activity that occurs within your business.
So what does ‘accountability’ look like?
First and foremost, it means that you taking the lead on accepting responsibility for the results expected of you—both good and bad. Real leaders don’t blame others. There are things you could have done—or still can do—to change the results and performance of your culture.
Accountable leaders assume ownership for the performance of their teams – just like Harry Truman assumed accountability for the performance of his administration when he said, “The buck stops with me.”
Leadership is not perfect. It requires for people to be honest about what’s working and what’s not working. It means there are plenty of areas we need to learn and grow to become a better leader. Most people don’t want the headache and the responsibilities of leadership. It’s hard work, but at the same time if you are willing to make a positive difference, it can be very rewarding for your growth and the people you serve.
Why should you care about accountability?
Accountability builds trust within teams. It creates mutual respect between leaders and employees, and promotes a sense of fairness which is essential to a high performance teams. Accountability is not a destination but a journey to your success. Many leaders think accountability will solve all their problems, but the truth is far from it. It’s only part of your on-going leadership. Accountability is about a leader’s overall commitment to excellence of not only their own responsibility, but their organization as well.
Let’s take a look at some strategies for business leaders in high-performance organizations to lead their teams by being more accountable:
You must set clear and specific expectations
If you want people to achieve the results you are expecting, you must be really clear on the outcome in specific unambiguous terms. Most employees complain that their managers are not very clear and specific in communicating what needs to be accomplished. I would encourage to write the expectations and record them as part of an on-going coaching tool. As Samuel Johnson remarked, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”
Have systems in place to measure progress
Often times we establish SMART goals and expectations, but we don’t have systems to measure tangible progress that can help us stay on track. Leaders need to establish checkpoints to track real progress toward tasks, projects and priorities. Tracking performance is the heavy lifting of accountability. What gets measured, gets owned. Once you establish performance expectations and agreed on the outcomes, performance can be tracked with holding people accountable with the data in front of them.
Be a coach, not a police officer
Many managers think accountability is like issuing a “traffic ticket” or taking their employees to the woodshed. That’s why accountability gets a bad reputation. Your job as a leader is to coach them through a given situation when they don’t quite measure to the task or the goal. If they performed perfectly, they would not need you to begin with. When you sit and coach someone, develop a sense of curiosity to the conversation. Stephen Covey taught us that we need to “seek first to understand, than to be understood.”
Be the change you want to see
As a leader you need to model the expected behavior yourself – When leaders are visibly holding their own direct reports accountable, this sends a powerful leadership-by-example message to entire team. People will often dismiss what you say, but when they can see that your actions are aligned with the expected behaviors, the more trust exists. Remember, people don’t follow someone who has not done it themselves. Most of the time, your examples can serve as a model for great leadership because it can be seen on a day to day.
Improving accountability does not come with easy answers. You have to find out by testing and trying different methods. It can be accomplished over time by building a leadership culture that supports it. Remember it’s a journey, not a destination.