If you want an accountable organization, there is only one place to start – with you – the leader! Let’s unpack this a bit because lack of accountability is one of the most frequent complaints, I’ve heard from business leaders over the years. It’s usually couched in words from leaders grumbling about their managers that sound something like this, “They don’t hold their teams accountable.” The focus of the leader is on what others are not doing to hold team members accountable. The focus is on how other’s lack of accountability is impacting the leader, and their results, and the manager needs to fix it.
Let’s start with a clear definition of accountability. Verne Harnish in the book, “Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It … And The Rest Don’t” tells us that accountability, “belongs to the ONE person who has the ‘ability to count and who is tracking the progress and giving voice (screaming loudly) when issues arise within the defined task, team, function, or division.” Note the emphasis on the word “one.” Only one person can be accountable. If everybody is accountable, then nobody is accountable.
Holding other people accountable is exhausting. If I must always be the one who is watching to see when others fail in their accountability, I will be crushed under the weight of this burden. There is a better way; develop an organization where people hold themselves and others accountable. I am going to suggest that this has everything to do with your own mindset and how you see others. If you see others as a means to an end, or as an obstacle standing in your way or of no value to you at all then you are going to have a difficult time creating a culture of personal accountability. If, however, you see others as people just like yourself, with hopes, dreams, frustrations, weaknesses, and goals, you can begin to shift your mindset and that of your teams to a culture of personal accountability. The Arbinger Institute has a fantastic model that will help you implement a culture of personal accountability. The exercise would be done as follows:
- Set-up a meeting with the employee and ask them to describe their goals, objectives, burdens and frustrations. You should have a list of at least 3 to 5 items. This step is designed to help you see your employee.
- Next, ask them “How is my way of working with you making your job difficult?” This is a great place to conduct a Start, Stop, Keep exercise. Once we understand how we are impacting others we can adjust our way of working and interacting with them.
- The last step is to conduct regular check-ins and meetings with them. We are asking them if the changes we’ve made are making their jobs easier and more productive.
You want to build an accountable culture? Then work on holding yourself accountable first. People need to see what accountability looks like so be the model they follow. Remember the definition of accountability – it’s the ONE person who has the “ability to count,” to track progress on the great journey toward accountability. Give voice to it by holding yourself accountable and then see the positive impact you are having on others. Then you can begin to make the changes necessary to build accountability into the organization. With accountability will come creativity, innovation, collaboration and leadership!