Creating a Culture of Accountability

In an organization of any size, it is critical to implement a culture of accountability?  Here is how I would suggest going about doing that.

Accountability starts with crystal clear expectations.  Make it your objective to have clear expectations for each of the members of your team.  Expectations are best set collaboratively with the individuals, team and stakeholders that are impacted.  Be certain that you make commitments very carefully and encourage your team to do the same.

Whenever possible, set clear expectations about the results, but not necessarily the method to achieve the results.

Document the results in SMART goals, project plans, action items (who will do what by when), job descriptions, contracts etc.  This is incredibly important if you are going to get the full benefit of the creativity and ingenuity of the team.

Make sure that you communicate the expectations, once thoroughly documented, consistently and clearly.  Expectations sitting in a file unread are not terribly useful.

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”- George Bernard Shaw

Then, practice accountability.  To practice accountability, you must first hold yourself accountable.  Make it a symbol of your honor to do everything possible to hit your objectives and keep your commitments.  In that way, you lead by example for your team.

“A good leader takes more than their fair share of the blame and gives more than their share of the credit.”- Arnold Glasow

In Good to Great, Jim Collins describes how a level 5 leader practices “The window and the mirror”.  Great leaders, when things go well, look out the window to see all the other people that made that result possible.  When things do not work out, they look into the mirror and ask themselves, “what could I have done differently to generate better results.”

When holding yourself accountable, take responsibility for your results, and not necessarily the effort or steps taken to generate those results.  It is about whether the target is hit.  You should avoid blaming others when things go wrong.

Renegotiate your expectations anytime it becomes clear they are in jeopardy.

If / when you do not hit expectations, do not PR your way out of it.  Instead, admit your failure, frame it as learning and set a path to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

“When you make a commitment, you build hope; when you keep it, you build trust.”- Roger Merrill

At this stage, once you have set clear expectations and are holding yourself accountable for your results, then you can effectively hold others accountable for their results.

Make check-ins against results part of regular team meetings and one to ones with employees.  Hold the results up against the expectation and learn from the process.  Ask:  What could be done to improve results?  How could we teach others to achieve impressive results?

“Get good people and expect them to perform.  Terminate them quickly and fairly if you make the wrong choice.”- J. Willard Marriott Jr., Chairman and CEO, Marriott International

If you struggle with giving feedback.  You can read my article entitled “Giving Effective Feedback” for some tips.

  1. Set, document and communicate clear expectations
  2. Lead by example by holding yourself accountable
  3. Hold your team accountable with regular expectations vs. results reviews

Follow these guidelines and your team will reach new heights of effectiveness.  Let me know how it goes.

Just my opinion.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments.

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#Expectations #ClearExpectations #SMARTgoals #Accountability

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