More than a decade ago, our firm published an article on the importance of accountability in the workplace. With 36 years under our firm’s belt, I’m sure we have written about accountability more than once. I find accountability in the workplace more relevant than ever in today’s environment. It’s a topic that comes up in our HR consulting and executive coaching work almost every day, making this a good time to revisit accountability in 2023 with added perspective.
Read on for a refresh of on accountability, including valuable tips. It’ll be worth your while. I promise.
You can have a focused strategy, a great marketing plan, highly qualified and talented staff…but without a culture of real accountability, your teams and organization will not achieve the levels of success or results they could. Accountability is the make-or-break factor for a truly successful company that demands results.
Accountability, or the lack thereof, tops the list of serious issues that organizations continue to face even though we have all heard the word and know that it matters. Accountability is about individual and team performance, innovation, responsibility, talent management, and great communication. Truth be told, taking a hard and honest look at how accountability is handled can be a mirror providing insight into the health of an organization. If the culture of an organization is steeped in clearly communicating roles and expectations, in measuring results, in rewarding goal achievement and celebrating successes, then the organization has been successful in creating a culture of accountability. A company that has achieved a consistent and positive accountability culture has also achieved organizational effectiveness and can replicate their successes and continue to grow!
We have to first understands what happens when an organization does not hold their people accountable to really bring home the degree to which accountability can impact an organization. We have to fully understand and buy into its importance, especially when the word, accountability, itself gets overused and can start sound like just another buzz word. What happens when the leader does not have the time, or even the skillset, to communicate clear roles, to clarify project goals and deadlines, to establish clear priorities, and to recognize and reward the strong performers? The results include missed deadlines and opportunities, failed projects, employees who do not advance their skills and knowledge, and frustration for all.
Think about it for a second – if an employee is being asked to accomplish a project that they clearly aren’t looking forward to, perhaps find difficult, don’t understand the task involved and may not have all the skills needed, how engaged will that employee be? Add to that a manager who is focused on other areas and is not holding the employee responsible for the results, and you have a project that most likely will not be a success. But, what if the manager did understand how to hold the employee accountable? What if the manager understood why the employee was not looking forward to the project and took the opportunity to coach the employee and help them understand the importance of the project and how to achieve results. What if the manager and the employee had a working agreement about accomplishing key, challenging projects and they set up goals and metrics along the way, with a reward at the end. What a difference just using a few tools to hold people accountable can make!
The beginning of the year is an excellent time to work on improving the areas that will drive the success of our organizations. Here are a few ways that you, as a leader, can start to create a culture of accountability in your company in 2023:
1. Define your end result – To quote Stephen Covey, “Begin with the End in Mind.” Determine and build a vision for the culture you want to create – one that will bring accountability to the forefront this year.
2. Introspect and assess – Take time to journal and begin by asking yourself: When and where am I holding others accountable? On the other side of the coin, what prevents you, and your leaders, from holding others accountable? Is it time management and not adhering to the deadlines that you set? Is it the challenge of giving feedback, especially when the employee is not meeting standards? Is it the idea that once you assign a task or project, you expect the employee to do their part and trust that they will? Once you understand what gets in the way of you holding others accountable, you can work on removing that barrier and making accountability a way of worklife.
3. Create a strategy – In coordination with your leadership team, create a strategy that includes the right tools and training to foster a culture of accountability. Consider using working agreements as a part of your tactics. Bring your values and culture, as well as individual and team styles, into play when creating working agreements. Describe what needs to be done in terms of expected results. Explain why the task is important and how it fits into the larger picture. Incorporating accountability measures into agreements from the start will set the tone for what is expected on the job.
4. Implement and teach – Train your leaders how to present and integrate stronger accountability into their teams by implementing your strategy and tactics. After training, set goals for the employee to reach that help to reinforce what they have learned in the training or coaching. Set up regular meetings and incorporate the models and methods that they have learned in the training, while discussing how they’re applied in the workplace.
5. Create metrics – Incorporate means to measure the organizational impact of individual and shared accountability. Link metrics to rewards and consequences to generate and inspire motivation.
6. Acknowledge – Acknowledge employees when they meet their deadlines and successfully complete their projects. Institute appropriate consequences when deadlines and milestones are not reached…and make sure to follow-through with them.
The culture drives the wellness of the organization. Accountability leads to the results that are needed to succeed. Taking the time to define what accountability means in your organization and how you can create a culture that drives this message will reap long-term rewards for everyone. By harnessing the power of shared accountability and creating a culture that reinforces this, you will enhance your level of employee engagement and thrive as an organization.
The Personnel Perspective is a full-service management consulting firm specializing in human resources, leadership development and training, and recruiting. The firm’s core belief is that a company achieves organizational excellence through its people. Contact us to learn more: (707) 576-7653.