“We need more accountability around here.” “We need to hold people accountable.” This is one of the most consistent themes we hear from clients when asked what they would like to achieve or improve in their business. It’s a worthy goal, but the path to success is not simple. Leaders understand that you can’t mandate accountability. Accountability is a choice. Here’s a formal definition of accountability: the willingness of an individual to account for their actions, accept responsibility for them and disclose the results in a transparent manner. The first thing is share a common definition of accountability in your business so that the entire team is aligned for high performance. This starts with the executive team, without accountability on the leadership team, you'll never be able to create full team accountability.
We often think that by applying negative consequences, or calling people out, we’ll be able to enforce accountability. Who wants to be the accountability police? Our time as leaders is much better spent figuring out what we can do to create an environment that encourages accountable behavior, a culture where people are willing to account, accept, disclose, and even ask for help when needed. People need to accept responsibility for their outcomes, but before you jump straight to consequences, make sure you’ve done your part to create an environment where people will choose to be accountable. Thank team members that bring challenges to weekly staff meetings, rather than hiding them or sweeping them under the proverbial rug.
Step 1: Common Purpose: Start with WHY. Make sure people understand why things matter. What’s the big picture here? You can often link it to the left hand side of your Rockefeller Habits One-Page Strategic Plan OPSP.... your Core Purpose, Core Values, BHAG, Brand Promise. These are all things you have decided as a company are important to the long-term benefit of the organization. If people understand the greater good supported by achieving a goal, enforcing a policy, attending a meeting, working overtime, completing a report.... the list goes on and on.... then they will be much more committed to seeing it through.
Step 2: Clear Goals & Expectations: Get clear about WHAT needs to be done. Don’t be vague or assume everyone knows what you mean. One of the biggest breakthroughs for new clients using our Rhythm Consulting with software program is the discipline of setting SMART Red/Yellow/Green success criteria up front. And make sure to state your goals and expectations using SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Getting clear and aligned from the very beginning around what success looks like can have a powerful and positive impact on results. Accountability requires a set of clear goals so that everyone is on the same page about what is expected of them, without this you can't have an accountability culture.
Step 3: Effective Communication: Don’t assume that just because you said something once or sent out an email, everyone got it. Even if they all heard you say it or read the email, that’s no indication that they all understood you. The goal of all communication should be shared meaning. A good rule of thumb for communicating an important message to a group of people is to strive to share your message seven times in seven ways. Speak it, email it, create a visual tool, put it in the newsletter, review it in meetings, ask them to repeat it, be creative. Seven times may seem like overkill, but you get the idea. People process information differently, so make sure your message has been received and understood. Effective managers have extremely high employee engagement and can communicate open and honestly about the challenges they are facing to come to a quicker resolution
Step 4: Coaching, Feedback & Adjustments: It’s important for people to know how they’re doing, and to be able to share their progress with the team. Your weekly staff meetings and Red/Yellow/Green status updates are great tools for monitoring progress, identifying areas that may be falling short, and making critical adjustments before it’s too late. One of the truest tests of an accountable culture is the team’s ability to provide and accept coaching and feedback from each other. It requires a high level of trust and a deep understanding of best intentions by all (back to common purpose), but once you get there, accountability will soar, and so will results. Team accountability begins with personal accountability, so start your accountable leadership journey by looking in the mirror. This is a key component of leadership development and will help you achieve results.
Step 5: Consequences: There it is..... consequences.... but not until you’re sure you’ve done your part on the first four steps. And don’t forget that consequences can (and should) be both positive and negative for people to be held accountable. Recognize and appreciate great behavior and great results, and celebrate your victories! Remember to be transparent with the consequences, prior to the beginning of a project. At the beginning of an initiative, make sure that you set up both positive and negative consequences.
Increasing team accountability in your organization is within your grasp. You need to be purposeful about creating a culture of accountability. Be fair and consistent, be true to your word, and set a great example. Accountability can be contagious, especially when you all share the same accountability definition and speak a common language. Read about the 5 c's of team accountability to increase your team's performance and get them to hold themselves accountable. Great leaders use transparency and accountability as part of their leadership development with their dealings with their team members in their team meetings to improve performance.
Want more information on Team Accountability and High Performance Culture? Check out these additional resources:
The Power of Systems and People: Accountable Leaders and Teams
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