5 Keys To Foster Positive Accountability

I have observed a common theme that many leaders struggle with: they don’t know how to hold their people accountable. They may be great at hiring A players, but many leaders still have the feeling that their people could be doing better work.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word accountability? Being held accountable for crimes and misdemeanors? Being called to the carpet for poor earnings? If so, you’re not alone. Accountability is often viewed about punishing mistakes.

Many leaders make accountability a negative proposition, resulting in team members who are cautious, afraid to fail and don’t bring their best ideas and energy to their work. And this is absolutely wrong!

What is Accountability?

Accountability is the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner (businessdictionary.com).

A culture of accountability is one where everyone in your company, from leaders to the front line, have a high degree of ownership over their actions. Everyone understands the impact they have on achieving company results.

The best companies foster a culture where accountability is celebrated and plays a central role in moving the team and organization forward. They give everyone the opportunity to set goals and find success in a transparent way.

So the $64000 question is: How can you incorporate positive accountability as part of your daily practice, and foster a culture where individuals help each other perform better which builds trust (See Patrick Lencioni Five Dysfunctions of a Team)?

Accountability Culture

Here are five ways to make positive accountability a part of your company culture [see my infographic at the end of this post!]:

1. Make room for failure.
Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Failure is inevitable in business. You discover your true potential by taking a risk and accepting responsibility for the outcome–which includes the occasional failure. Acknowledge mistakes, but celebrate risk and encourage your staff to keep giving their all. Creating a positive attitude toward failing will help everyone on the team to take more chances.

2. Set SMART goals.
Businesses always run into trouble when goals are not clearly communicated. Without everyone “buying in” and on the same page, goals will not be reached, and your company will suffer. Setting–and agreeing on–SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) is a key aspect of accountability. In the best companies, all team members know their goals and how they affect the organization.

3. Create a structure for accountability.
It’s one thing to encourage a culture of accountability; it’s another to build in a structure that encourages it on a day-to-day basis. Three easy ways to do this include:

  • Established meeting rhythms – daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings to check in on the progress of a project where individuals have specific accountabilities.
  • An electronic task management system where commitments can be tracked and followed up on.
  • Each team member has at least three key performance indicators (KPIs) by which outcomes are measured. This keeps everyone on track to achieve the desired results.

4. Face the Brutal Facts
Many of us struggle to realistically assessing how we are performing relative to our goals. We tend to be overly optimistic about what we can achieve.

As Jim Collins says: “you must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be … Yes, leadership is about vision. But leadership is equally about creating a climate where the truth is heard and the brutal facts confronted.”

5. Empower your team.
Implement a solid mission, vision, and core values. Then let your team run. You won’t believe how far they’ll go!

Micromanagement–hovering over team members or telling them how to do their jobs–can ruin the entire process. Trust your team. You hired great people, so step back and let them do the jobs you pay them to do. Your team members will hold themselves accountable for their results.

Next Steps

The concept of building a company culture where accountability is embraced is simple in context but not easy to implement. It requires you to instill it into every facet of your company operations. It means having goals clearly communicated, and team members who know what’s expected of them. And it means providing the resources they need to succeed.

Contact me to discuss building a culture of accountability in your company.

All the best

© 2022 David Paul Carter. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: metamorworks | iStock

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