Having worked with hundreds of businesses, senior executives and management teams one topic that is always difficult to broach is accountability. Many people don’t understand what accountability is, why it’s important, or where it starts. Yes, they understand accountability is important, but don’t know how to create a culture of accountability, they just hope it will happen.
But hope is not a strategy!
Here are seven truths about accountability, which will help you better understands and increase accountability levels in your organization.
1. Accountability starts with you
Leadership defines culture, and if you want to create a culture of accountability, then it starts with you. You need to model the behaviours that you want to see in your organization. If you want people to take ownership, then you have to be seen to take ownership, when you make commitments you have to be seen to meet those commitments. If you don’t, then why should anyone else be interested in doing so. You have to walk the talk if you want others to follow you don’t the accountability path.
2. You are accountable
As the leader you are accountable. You’re accountable for any failures, as well as any successes that your organization may have. Accountability comes as part of the job description, which is why, if you try to duck it, it will have a negative impact on the levels of accountability that already exist.
3. Accountability is not a one-time thing
Accountability is not a one-time, sometime thing; it’s an all-time thing. Those people who don’t want to be accountable, or held accountable, are always looking for any opportunities to get out of it any slips, or gaps in your accountability will give them the out they need, to only be accountable when they see fit.
You need to be seen to be as being accountable at all times.
4. Accountability applies to one and all
When you’re looking to hold people accountable you cannot play favorites; you cannot let it slides with some people. Accountability has to be consistently requested of everyone, all the time. If you chose to let one person ignore their accountabilities then it opens the door for others to be selectively accountable too.
5. Accountability cannot be delegated
You cannot delegate accountability, accountability is something that has to be accepted for that person to feel accountable and to have them take ownership. The best way to get people to accept accountability is to set them up to be successful. No one is going to take ownership and show accountability for something that they know, or believe is going to fail.
If you want people to accept accountability, ask them if they have everything they need to be successful, when they say yes they have taken a big step towards accepting accountability. If they say no then you need to make sure you provide whatever is missing because without it they will never accept accountability
6. Accountability is the difference between success and failure
When people don’t take accountability and things, start to go awry, as they don’t feel ownership they go into spectator mode and watch as things fail. If they thought it would fail from the outset it’s even worse; they go into I told you so mode, which nearly always becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Whereas when people take ownership if things start to go wrong, then they step into solution mode. They start to try and figure out what’s going wrong and try and fix it. Teams that are successful are full of people that go into solution mode. They are full of people who not only care but take care.
In my experience, accountability is the single biggest differentiator between successful and unsuccessful teams.
7. You have to hold people accountable
You can’t just tell people they’re accountable, and then leave them to it. Yes, it may work for some, but not for all. You need to set up review sessions; you have to check in and see how people are doing.
This serves three purposes:
- It lets them know that they will be held accountable for the activities.
- It gives you an opportunity to provide support in case things start to go awry,
- It offers you the opportunity to offer praise and encouragement to move people further if things are going well.
Accountability is something that has to be worked at. There has to be a clear and consistent strategy on how it’s going to be implemented and validated.
It starts with you, and it has to apply at all times and to everyone.
When you can do that it will help you create a culture of accountability where the organization will start to hold itself and others accountable which will have a massive impact on performance and results.