Growing Team Accountability in Your Organization

By Cathy McCullough

In my last blog, “Lack of Accountability is Costing You,” I reviewed the expense that accompanies the lack Growing Accountability in Your Organizationof accountability. As I noted at the end of that blog, leading a business to higher levels of success is hard work. It’s hard enough to lose money, but it’s even more tragic when you start costing yourself money. There are a lot of reasons to grow accountability in your teams, the most important of which is that it simply makes good business sense to increase leadership accountability in your organization.

Where do you begin your journey toward building higher levels of accountability?

Here are a few ideas to jump-start your thinking:

Define Clear Expectations. When lack of accountability on the part of key leaders is allowed, you end up with a giant tumbleweed—a massive mess that seems almost impossible to untangle. Where on earth do you start your journey toward building accountability? Rhythm Systems has developed a role accountability tool called the Job Scorecard to help with this. I invite my clients to see that this is a great way to get your arms around your own thinking as you prepare to increase accountability in your company. I just talked with two company leaders who are in agreement that three key divisional leaders (out of seven total) have been allowed to do whatever they want, in any way they see fit. The fallout from this lack of accountability is leading to some serious morale issues. I suggested that the two leaders fill out (separately from one another) the Job Scorecard tool—one for each of these three leaders. What is it, specifically, that they need these leaders to do within the next Quarter? What does success, then, look like? How will everyone know the needle is moving in the right direction? Then, they should contrast and compare their individual tools for each person and consolidate their thinking into those elements that emerge as strategic imperatives for each of the three key leads. And those accountabilities should include targets for specific strategic Individual Priorities, of which leadership priorities should be a part.

Have the Difficult Discussion. If needed, this is strategically relevant to the bottom-line of your business. Remember: Bad leaders in your company have been avoided—which in turn has been translated into their doing whatever they want to do. The culture has conditioned them to be the way they are! So if they appear to go back to the way they’ve always done things, then don’t avoid the difficult one-on-one discussion. Share your positive intent in having the discussion, and be ready also to share very specific, tangible examples around your key points. Being proactive is a core competency of any great leader.  

Lead Your Team to Have Higher-Level Discussions at your Weekly Meetings. For instance, when you have your Weekly Leadership Team Meeting, ask questions that you’ve avoided (because you wanted to avoid getting someone upset). For instance: "That goal seems a bit too vague, so how can we state that goal more specifically? What are we really trying to do with that goal?"...and gather thoughts from the team to co-create what a more targeted goal statement might be. If someone becomes defensive, then instead of backing away and moving on, simply (and succinctly) say why the goal needs to be stated more tightly and then repeat your question to the group. Lead the dialogue to be a higher-level one vs. a mediocre one. 

Manage Your Own Expectations. People who like the lack of accountability will not have an appreciation for the shift toward accountability. Know that; expect it; be prepared for it so you don’t get blindsided into once again letting it go. 

Have a Contingency Plan. As you begin to build a more accountable team, you should probably expect a few casualties. Some people simply can’t change their behaviors in the direction that best aligns with team accountability. So if, as the CEO in my last blog noted, you have someone who is defensive and simply refuses to get on board, then recognize that s/he may leave the company. S/He might be very smart, but there are other smart people out there who can better serve the true mission and Core Purpose of your company. So prepare yourself, just in case. Otherwise, you’ll let the irrational fear of this person leaving the company rule your thinking…and once again, nothing will change.

Let Your Rhythm Dashboard Help You! One of the greatest rewards of having a Company Dashboard in Rhythm is that it sets the stage for creating transparency. People who don’t like being held accountable generally don’t like transparency. A CEO recently shared with me that someone on his team pushed back (during a Weekly Leadership Team Meeting) on using the Dashboard and that he followed that by not statusing on a regular basis, etc. This CEO raised his own leadership lid by clarifying a key point to the entire group: “This is how we run this company. It’s a core operating system here at XYZ. Therefore, weekly statusing isn’t something we leisurely do. It’s a requirement.” This was followed by a one-on-one discussion with his team member where the CEO asked: “What do you need to do to make sure you status before our next Weekly Meeting, and for all Weekly Meetings thereafter?” Make sure your people see that you do what you do for a reason. It isn’t the Dashboard that’s hindering your company’s ability to stay on-target; it isn’t the lack of transparency; it isn’t the lack of strategic focus. What’s hindering your company’s continued success are leaders who refuse to use your Dashboard as an operational imperative.

There’s a hefty price-tag to not having an accountable team; the cost goes up if your company is ever in a crisis situation. Begin your journey now, and reap the rewards you (and your company) deserve.

Download Team  Accountability Assessment

Want more information on Team Accountability? Check out these additional resources:

The Five C's of Team Accountability

How top CEOs Close the Strategy Execution Gap

Team Accountability Begins with Personal Accountability

Building Team Accountability: Job Scorecards

10 Signs of an Accountable Culture [Infographic]

Growing Accountability in Your Organization

Quick Tips for Building Accountability

5 Steps to Having an Accountability Discussion [Video]

Learn more about accountable leaders and teams. 

Editor's note:  This blog originally appeared in 2016 and has been reposted.

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Cathy McCullough


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images