In my last blog, “Accountability; a privilege or burden?” I discussed what accountability truly is or should be. As promised, I want to share five practical things leaders and managers can do to create and sustain an environment of authentic and effective Accountability.
1.)Make sure people are engaged in setting the goals early on. This practice would most likely be applied differently depending on the size and how disperse the team is. In a small team, it is easy to engage people in the strategy or goal-setting exercise. In a large organization, this principle will have to be implemented in steps. Step one would be to get the entire senior team engaged and aligned. Step two; bring the middle managers on board. And step three; update and include the rest of the team. The application may be different, but the principle of engaging people in the goals early on is always relevant. This is because the more people feel engaged in setting the goals the more they will feel a sense of personal ownership and accountability toward them.
2.) Promote a culture of open, honest, authentic and courageous communication. Where people feel they can speak their mind, ssssespecially addressing what is not working they tend to naturally gravitate toward feeling and behaving like loyal owners of the business. Regardless of what senior leaders may say, people will only speak up if they believe their leaders genuinely want them to. To do that leaders have to start with themselves. They need to show that they are open to honest dialogue, including feedback and criticism about themselves.
3.)Instill the language of accountability as the norm. The language of accountability sounds and feels very different than the typical language of compliance that permeates throughout most organizations. In an environment of compliance people have plenty of tolerance for, and indulgence in excuses, justifications, blame and reasons why things can’t be done or why they didn’t get done. In contrast, the language of accountability is all about clarity of action. People make clear requests and promises. And these get responded to with clear and authentic acceptances, declines or counter-offers. People always know where things stand and they value integrity and honesty over appearances and political gain.
4.) Deal with failures, mistakes and shortfalls in an empowering way. In most organizations when a team under performs or fails people tend to look for someone or something to blame. The problem is that when people feel there is a hunt going on to find a scape-goat they react by hiding, protecting their behinds, even lying. As a result, teams often don’t get to the source and root-cause of the failure in the first place, so they find themselves repeating the same failures. If you want to create an environment of authentic accountability deal with all failures, mistakes and shortfalls only in an empowering way – don’t entertain the ‘blame game’. In fact, don’t be concerned with ‘whose fault it is’. Instead, be obsessed with learning from past failures and correcting the issues. Ask your team questions like: “What was missing?” “What was in the way?” and “What can we change, correct and improve?”. You’ll see that people will be excited to contribute to the investigation and as a result you’ll come up with breakthroughs AND you’ll strengthen people’s sense of ownership and accountability to your vision.
5.) Highlight, recognize and celebrate displays of accountability. Most leaders don’t do a great job of acknowledging and recognizing their team members for a job well done on any day. I am not referring to the formal corporate human resources recognition programs that occur at best once a quarter or a couple of times a year. I am talking about creating an environment of day-to-day verbal recognition. People respond extremely well to genuine recognition. It makes them feel noticed, appreciated and valued and that causes them to want to do and contribute even more. If you want to create a powerful culture of accountability go out of your way to recognize small, medium or large displays of ownership and accountability. Make it a daily routine and practice.