Holding people accountable can be a chore for most leaders building an accountability culture. For a multitude of reasons, it’s simply not comfortable for most people. It’s great when people step up and take personal accountability. It makes your job so much easier! But, when you have people who just don’t hold themselves accountable and accept responsibility for their actions and instead play the blame game, then you have a much more difficult scenario.
Don't worry, in working with high performing teams for over a decade we have a lot of great tips to help you build the accountability skills in your organization. You need to be their accountability coach. The words responsibility with accountability are often used interchangeably, but they have large differences in practice. The main difference between responsibility and accountability is that responsibility can be shared while accountability cannot.
- Realize that building accountability is not about punishment. You’ll have to make sure leaders understand this key point.
- Define, with great clarity, who’s doing what. Roles and responsibilities should be clearly identified (the Job Scorecard is a great way to do this). When things overlap, give a further definition as to who’s doing what and who reports to whom, what the expectations are for each party, etc.
- When you set your strategic priorities, each one has only one person “driving” it. Not two, not three; one. Others will certainly help by perhaps having some Individual Priorities to accomplish, but only one person is ultimately accountable for driving the initiative forward.
- Watch for confusion relative to competing priorities and sort these out as needed.
- Create a culture where the expectation to openly share and communicate is the norm vs. the exception.
- Design pathways to help people interact toward the achievement of higher results.
- Always help people identify the Individual Priorities they should be working on.
- Simply do not accept victim mentality—at all. Victim mentality feeds the lack of accountability.
- Do not accept finger-pointing. Instead, create a culture where you can actually talk wisely and positively about failures.
- Be a visible leader. Connect with people. You can’t build team accountability if people don’t really know you. Transparency and accountability are both critical in high performance cultures.
- The state of being accountable is a mindset. As a leader, you should start with yourself first. Always accept responsibility for your actions, even if it makes you feel vulnerable. Your team will thank you for it and follow your lead.
- If you want your employees held accountable, you need to be accountable to your team first.
- Set goals that are realistic. If you set goals that are stretch goals, or hard to obtain, it could lead to people to "fudge" their results as they don't want to let the team down.
- Reinforce that the culture is to ensure the team is reaching your goals. Keep the focus on achieving your goals, rather than the consequences of not achieving them, to keep positive momentum.
And, when you have to have a difficult conversation, remember that you’re not the ‘boss.’ To build a high performance organization, you’re a COACH.
- Communicate the relevance and the significance of the work being done.
- Communicate with great clarity and in specific terms what concerns you.
- Communicate why certain behaviors are not productive.
- Be as objective as possible.
- Be sure to state your objective for getting together (which is, ultimately, that you want the person to be successful).
- Use facts vs. hearsay or opinion.
- Ask the person to share his/her thoughts on how s/he might take on a higher level of personal accountability.
- What might be the impact of these behaviors on your peers?
- What specific actions might you do to move toward a solution?
- Ask for any questions.
- C=Clarification, Consequences, & Commitment
- Clarify what you need to see (or reiterate it if the person has already pinpointed it).
- Share consequences (which, by the way, aren’t always negative; there are positive consequences, too, so what might those be?).
- Gain a personal commitment from the individual (and make sure what’s said is specific and measurable). Asking for a commitment to a higher level of performance gives people a locus of control over their own success.
- Provide ongoing support.
- Be consistent in your follow-up.
- Be a resource.
- Encourage all team members to set measurable Success Criteria and share expectations around what exactly the deliverables are to be.
- Reach out in real-time if things aren’t moving in the right direction.
- Freely give your feedback.
- Help people work toward solutions.
Want more information on Building Team Accountability? Check out these additional resources:
Learn more about accountable leaders and teams.
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