Do you hear the word accountability and just cringe? It’s such a buzz word. Does it make you think of keeping score? Does it turn you off? Many business owners know they need more accountability for themselves and their teams but at the same time they fail to implement an effective strategy. They cringe, they avoid, they walk away.
Accountability is taking responsibility for what you say you are going to do. Simply stated, it means following through. Actually talking about your goals or what you are going to do is a simple way of increasing your personal accountability. When you have a team that reports what their goals are to the team, as well as what they accomplished, it increases accountability. None of us want to “lose face” or say we didn’t do what we said we would.
Before you can truly be accountable you have to have clearly stated goals and outcomes. If you do not have a clear set of goals or expectations it is hard to hold people accountable or be accountable yourself. When goals are clear and measurable they become understandable for the person responsible. When goals are unclear, not measurable or are wishy-washy, it is difficult to be accountable.
For instance, if you have a business goal of increasing sales, it is measurable but it is not a good goal. The smallest increase in sales and the person has met the goal. A better goal would be to increase sales by “x” percent. That is measurable and gets the business to where you want it, and is clear for staff responsible.
Staff need to gain clarity for each goal and what their responsibilities are. Leaders must be open to questions and be ready to provide clarity. A workplace that encourages accountability (and expects it) is one that also knows that there must be room for ongoing communication about goals and responsibilities. Staff must know from leaders that they are allowed – and expected – to ask for additional information, and that it in no way means that they are not being responsible or accountable. Actually, it means just the opposite: That they are!
Leaders must lead the way to accountability and responsibility by themselves showing that they are open to questions, open to providing answers and they too, at times, will need to ask for clarification or more information in order to be accountable themselves. Accountability then becomes a cultural norm within the workplace when individuals are given the space to take on responsibility and to expect clear communications about each task.
Accountability also means that goals and expectations are reviewed regularly. Without actual review and measurement of goals/expectations there really is no accountability. Reviewing and measuring goals gives leaders and their teams the space to discuss what is going well and what is not. If a goal is not moving forward and there is never a conversation about why not, the goal will continue to not meet expectations and results will remain the same.
Accountability is only effective if it is an active process of goals setting, reviewing, revision and implementation. When these four steps are occurring consistently, then the organization can truly move its strategies and succeed.