Ah yes, that word, ACCOUNTABILITY, identified as one of the topical challenges for leaders based on a recent survey by Coach and Author Mary Beth O’Neill. I have been discussing this same topic with my clients and colleagues, and it appears to be widely interpreted and perhaps, misunderstood. Simply described, when someone takes responsibility and accepts ownership to deliver on a commitment, they are accountable.
Many leaders struggle with the concept of accountability, and they are looking to their peers, their leaders, and now their coaches to develop strategies to help them hold their own teams accountable.
Let’s explore this through a different lens. An individual either HAS accountability, or they do NOT. There are no degrees of being more, or less, accountable. You either are…or you are not, and hanging out somewhere in the middle only means that expected results are left to chance. If individuals accept the accountability of delivering on a commitment, then they must know that delivering on that commitment contributes to a larger mission, and they will take personal responsibility for the outcome. On the flipside, they must understand that failure to deliver, results in consequences, whether they be personal, career, organizational, team, or financial.
For individuals to accept accountability, they must be assigned the authority and have the ability to make decisions within the scope of what they are accountable for. They must also have access to the resources, tools and information as well as have the requisite skills required to deliver on the commitment. If this sounds challenging, it is, and without these prerequisites you cannot truly hold someone accountable.
If holding others accountable was easy, leaders would experience less anxiety and see greater results. As a leader, you may be reflecting on this now. What might be keeping you from holding your team accountable for producing the results they have committed to?
- Does your team truly understand what they are accountable for?
- Do they understand how success (or failure) will be measured?
- Do you lack the trust that your team will deliver to your expectations?
- Do you feel a need to control the details of the work and how your team achieves their outcome?
- Does your team have the skills and experience to carry this responsibility?
- Do you feel that you may not be supported by your Leader or Senior Management to create that desired environment?
- Creating an environment of accountability is a bold move outside of your comfort zone. Are you unsure of how to create this environment?
- Are you unwilling to enforce the consequences for fear of retaliation or decreased individual or team performance?
Do you have positive and affirmative answers to these questions? As leaders, we need to consider what is most important, what is needed, and how we can shift our own behaviors to create a different result. As you consider these questions, you may not have an answer to all of them, however, a solution is to discuss with a team member who you need to be more accountable. Do you see accountability in the same way? Do they feel supported enough to take on the responsibilities that are expected of them? What challenges or barriers do you both feel you need to overcome to create an environment of accountability?
I know with certainty, that when you improve the quality of your conversations, you will create more effective actions and therefore better results. Do you see an opportunity for some immediate shifts that you could make to truly hold your team accountable? Get started, lean in, and be committed to the process.
If you have any questions how you can create a better environment for accountability, I welcome the opportunity to discuss. Watch for future articles on this topic, and an upcoming webinar where I will offer Q&A and Coaching to help leaders improve their accountability.
“Accountability breeds response-ability.” DR. STEPHEN R. COVEY