In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. In leadership roles, accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, ad policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.
At the very core of accountability, is leadership; the will and ability of leaders to consistently hold themselves and others accountable to address any barriers that are interfering with success. I often hear leaders say, ‘they just don’t get it.’ or ‘I tell them what to do but they just don’t get it done.’ Have you heard those words in your organization? Have you personally voiced those same sentiments?
Designing accountability in your organization may include many different approaches over a period of time. It may mean looking at your recruiting practices, formalizing or supporting performance management, updating your leadership training, reviewing policies and processes that support successful implementation, and/or coaching specific individuals to hold themselves and others accountable. For sure, it is all about the ‘conversation’.
As a starting place, there are six simple questions for you to consider that we know will support accountability in most environments:
1. Are you crystal clear about your expectations when communicating to your team? Have you set measurable, time specific, quality outcomes? I know that over the years individuals working with me have experienced my ‘drive by’ leadership style. I bet you’ve been guilty of the same style – instructions communicated quickly in the hallway or on my way out the door, no written follow up on my part, no opportunity to ask questions, etc… Who was accountable when that ball dropped? I was! Has that ever happened to you as a leader?
2. Do you invite questions and concerns from individuals on your team to ensure they have the same understanding as you have about expected outcomes? When I personally get this right, I know the results are better and we all get to celebrate a job well done.
3. Ask yourself if you are confident that individual has the time, skills and resources to complete the task? That demands a conversation at the beginning of the process, not at the end when it goes off the rails. Sometimes we are so intent on our own schedules and demands, we fail to consider what ‘unanswered’ questions they might have, do they do feel competent taking the task on and what competing priorities have they already committed to.
4. Are the internal processes and policies supportive of the task? Does this individual know the internal process well? Is it possible there are processes that are outdated and no longer support what needs to be done? Reviewing processes in need of change is an ongoing necessity in most organizations.
5. Are you willing to hold others accountable with regular check-in conversations and feedback as the project/task progresses? Have you been clear about the consequences of not meeting a deadline? Are they aware of the importance of having conversation about ‘challenges’ that could delay the results – sooner than later?
6. Do you ensure continuous improvement by recognizing completion with your team, and leveraging the learning opportunities from each project? What went well? What did you learn along the way? What might happen differently next time?
One thing I can say for sure is that I am challenged each and every week to get this right so I do understand how difficult it can be. I also know the joy and benefits when I do get it right. My team is happier, works harder and they step in and accept the challenge even when they’re not absolutely sure they can be successful, we all grow!
If you are curious and feel further conversation would have value in your organization, call and ask about our new initiative – Accountability by Design, a customized, integrated approach to business results.