What is accountability?
Being accountable can be about ensuring you have delivered what was promised. However, it’s also about being invested in the company’s vision, growth and development; showing initiative, and taking ownership and responsibility for decisions, and actions.
Brent Gleeson (2016) states that “accountability is probably the single most important element fuelling truly successful organisations.” Gleeson believes that accountability strengthens a company’s culture, it highlights outstanding employees and good practice, it makes sure employees take ownership, it builds trust, sets expectations, achieves goals, defines the mission and empowers the team.
Below are some tips to help leaders create more accountability in the workplace:
- Provide role clarity – Ensure that people are clear about their role and what they are responsible for delivering. This approach also applies to team goals, where people are responsible for specific elements of a broader goal. It’s essential for people to know with complete transparency, their goals/objectives, who else is involved, and what deliverables are expected by when.
- Apply consequences consistently and fairly – There is a consequence to all aspects of performance – good and bad. The leader needs to apply effective and consistent outcomes for each. By doing so, you are providing clarity on performance expectations, ensuring everyone knows where they stand. In turn, this build trust – people can see evidence of good performance being rewarded, and below par performance being addressed.
- Delegate, but remain responsible – As a leader, even when you’ve delegated a task, it’s crucial to remain responsible for the outcome and to stay involved. Gallo (2012) suggests, “don’t walk away from a task you’ve delegated. Stay involved, but let your employee lead the way.”
- Be sure of the capability of those you delegate to – It’s crucial that the person who is delegated to, has the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver the task you ask of them. If they do not, consider how you provide them with the opportunity to learn these through the delivery of the task, or what wider development is required prior to delegating to them. Naturally, those colleagues who are not wholly up to speed, will require you to be more ‘hands on’ when delegating.
- Support colleague’s ideas – Let your team try to solve problems, rather than suggesting that your ideas need to be delivered verbatim. This will grow their competence and confidence to take ownership to resolve issues moving forwards (Browning 2012).
- Foster a no-blame culture – Providing accountability isn’t about identifying a scapegoat if things go wrong. If this is the attitude, people will be fearful and disempowered. Fear causes defensiveness, lack of engagement and aggression, all counter-productive to your aims. People need to be able to be innovative with their approach to problem-solving and take calculated risks – things won’t always work perfectly the first time, but they need the freedom to try.
- Seek & provide feedback – As a leader, you can seek feedback from your colleagues about ways you can improve. You can encourage this in others too, so that they can continuously strive to improve (McCullough 2019). If you see colleagues doing a good job, be sure to acknowledge this and praise them.
- Share information and resources – If leaders and employees are to be accountable, they need to have access to all the information available, and plenty of resources to tackle the issues they encounter (CCL).
- Encourage a culture of ownership – For employees to thrive and feel they ‘can’ be accountable, encourage them to think about how they will own their activities and actions, using open questions to facilitate effective discussions. Dave Bailey suggests that one of the most helpful open questions a leader can ask is, “what will you do about it?” (Bailey 2019).
- Be a role model – As a leader, you also need to show that you are accountable, so that your colleagues can follow in your footsteps. Ensure that you keep promises. If you say you’ll do something, make sure you do. Always have clear communication with stakeholders to keep people in the loop. Make sure you meet deadlines and the quality standards expected. This shows that you have integrity and can be trusted. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver rather than vice-versa. Jennifer Porter suggests that to improve a team, it’s crucial for leaders to first work on themselves. Leaders need to hold themselves accountable, take responsibility for problems and stick with them until they’re resolved (Porter 2019).
By applying these steps over time, leaders and organisations will encourage and benefit from individual’s that understand and want to own their own space; creating consistently high-performance outcomes for everyone.
Bailey, D. (2019). ‘How to Hold Your Team Accountable,’ The Founder Coach (Online). Available: https://medium.dave-bailey.com/how-to-hold-your-team-accountable-9fa57bfb315d (accessed 16th June 2019)
Browning, H. (2012). ‘7 Ways to Build Accountable Organizations’ Forbes (Online). Available: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ccl/2012/02/28/7-ways-to-build-accountable-organizations/#2bd15fce3cd3 (accessed 16th June 2019)
Centre for Creative Leadership. ‘Yes, You Can Increase Accountability’. CCL (Online). Available: https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/yes-you-can-increase-accountability/ (accessed 16th June 2019)
Gallo, A. (2012). ‘Why Aren’t You Delegating?’ Harvard Business Review (Online). Available: https://hbr.org/2012/07/why-arent-you-delegating (accessed 16th June 2019)
Gleeson, B. (2019). ‘Why Accountability is Critical for Achieving Winning Results.’ Forbes (Online). Available: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2016/12/08/why-accountability-is-critical-for-achieving-winning-results/#96eb40645e11 (accessed 16th June 2019)
McCullough, C. (2019). ‘The Five C’s of Leadership and Team Accountability (Updated for 2019).’ Rhythm Systems (Online). Available: https://www.rhythmsystems.com/blog/the-five-cs-of-team-accountability (accessed 16th June 2019)