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Build A Culture Of Accountability

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“What else can I do to rise above my circumstances and achieve the results I desire?”

Effective leaders, that is leaders who lead a winning team, operate on the premise that their people must focus on achieving results, and they build a culture of accountability into their team. This means that everything they personally do in that regard is to support and encourage the best outcome possible from each individual.

These sought-after leaders are able to lead their people beyond the boundaries of their ‘task’ and inspire them to pursue optimum results. They achieve this by creating an environment that motivates the individual to ask themselves, “What else can I do?”

This is a question that must be asked over and over until the desired results are achieved. “What else can I do to rise above my circumstances and achieve the results I desire?”

What does ‘being accountable’ mean?

What is accountability, have you ever really thought about it? I love the following definition of accountability in an article from the American Management Association, ‘How To Create A Culture Of Accountability”,  “A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results – to See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It.”

This definition includes a mindset or the attitude of continually asking that important question, “What else can I do to rise above my circumstances and achieve the results I desire?”

This way of thinking requires a level of personal ownership that includes making, keeping and answering for one’s individual commitments, for where one spends their time. Armed with this new definition of accountability, you can help yourself and others do everything possible to both overcome the most difficult of circumstances and achieve the desired results.

Only when you assume full accountability for your thoughts, feelings, actions, and results can you direct your own destiny; otherwise, someone or something else will. The real value and benefit of accountability stems from the ability to influence events and outcomes before they happen. This requires taking the time to think forward, to plan for the future, while also reviewing the past.

Most people unfortunately view accountability as something that belittles them or happens ‘to them’ when their performance wanes or results fail to materialise or when problems develop. They look upon it from the ‘victim’ mode, rather than the ‘owner’ of the task. I love Kirstiy Spraggon’s book “Work As If You Own It’ as it addresses this vital aspect of success. It’s a practical ‘how to’ book in which she discusses how to view every work situation from a place of ownership, accountability and power.

At some point in our lives most of us have thought about being our own boss, working our own hours and making our own choices, but few people manage to come out on top when they take up the their courage and try to ‘make it happen’. This is because most people never learn the simple strategies of being accountable for producing results. Learn to ask yourself the question, “What else can I do to rise above my circumstances and achieve the results I desire?”

This is accountability in action! While ‘accountaility’ is word often used in business in reference to having a support group or someone else to hold you accountable, or to help you maintain the results you want, in the end accountability lies solely on the individual. Being accountable according to Webster, simply means being responsible for decisions made, actions taken, and assignments completed. It’s the act of being responsible for one’s actions.

Effective leaders are able to work with their people so that each individual see’s that each of their daily activities are “revenue producing” in some way, and they gauge the priority of their tastes accordingly – that is it’s directed towards achieving the desires results for the enterprise. Each person’s daily activities must be in alignment with the targeted results of the team, for the individual revenue producing activities to be accountable.

How best is the individual to do this?

By holding up your end of the bargain, so here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Have you clearly communicated what you expect of your people?
  • Do they have the skills, resources and authority to succeed?
  • Are their incentives aligned with your expectations?
  • Have you provided feedback, guidance and support to help them improve?
  • Have they been recognized and rewarded for positive performance?

If you have met your obligations as a leader, then you can hold people accountable with a clear conscience. I recently read these questions in a brief article by the above mentioned Michael Canic, Ph.D. of Bridgeway Leadership called “Let’s Talk About Accountability” where he asked

“Do you have the will to do what it takes to win?”

It’s been on my mind ever since because he puts the final accountability solely on the shoulders of the leader. I thought it was worth sharing his 5 tips on holding others accountable here, because everything you say and everything you do sends a signal to your team mates about your commitment to winning. Canic calls them “Constructive Accountability’

Five steps can help you constructively hold people accountable:

  1. Reiterate the common purpose. Reestablish your shared commitment to a common goal. This sends a signal that you and your employee are allies, not adversaries.
  2. Take responsibility. Reaffirm that you are responsible and committed to creating an environment in which your people can succeed. Offer support. This demonstrates that your agenda is not simply to place blame.
  3. State your expectations. Outline what you expect of the employee to help the organization win. Be clear and concise. State your expectations in terms of activities and results. This lets the employee know that you have expectations of them as well as of yourself.
  4. Describe the current situation. Using data wherever possible, explain how the employee’s current activities and results are not meeting expectations. Focus on activities and results, not the person. Pick your examples carefully; the employee will likely try to counter them. An example shown to be less than valid will weaken your case and your credibility.
  5. Establish a solution and follow-up. Determine what both of you need to do differently to help the employee succeed. Outline next steps: what you expect to be accomplished by when, and when you will meet again to discuss progress. Express optimism regarding the outcome and thank the employee for their commitment.

His ‘Bottom Line’: Holding people accountable is tough to do. Yet without accountability, your organization is unlikely to win. When it comes time for decisive action, find resolve in the old Chinese saying, “sometimes one must cut off a finger to save a hand.

It’s often said that one of the toughest things you have to do as a leader is hold people accountable for poor performance, however maybe that’s because the leader has not effectively enrolled their individual teammates in producing the desired results? I’d love to know what you think.

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