Don’t Make Me Ask Twice!
Creating a Culture of Accountability
Why is it so difficult to hold people accountable for results and to call them on it?
A culture of accountability is a primary building block for any business. It’s absolutely essential if you’re going to be able to deliver results on any level with any consistency. So how is it that it becomes so elusive in organizations? Especially in larger organizations where entire pockets or departments of people can show up every day and under deliver.
Well, let’s look at what accountability really is. Webster defines it as “ a willingness to accept responsibility.” In business it’s that and it’s also taking ownership for a result. And “ownership” is just a little more inclusive than responsibility. It implies investment. We’re not just asking our people to be responsible, we’re asking for an investment.
If you’re looking to build a culture of accountability (where everyone owns the results they are expected to deliver, where every one is invested in the outcomes) you need to think about who is responsible to instill and maintain that culture. Who’s job is it to make sure it exists in the first instance? It doesn’t just manifest because some people are invested while others aren’t. Does it sit with company leaders or with company managers? I’m guessing you’ll answer “both!” And you’d be correct except it’s essentially different for each.
As a company leader (and I’m talking about the true leader here – the one’s who are responsible for strategy and vision) their responsibility around accountability is through setting an expectation but primarily through example. Leaders must walk the talk of accountability. This is where leadership credibility comes from. More than experience and know-how, title or tenure. Demonstrated actions of accountability are what leaders are made of. So where does that leave management? In the bullseye.
Managers are the primary builders, sustainers and stewards of accountability. If your organization, department, team or group is struggling with accountability for results – it’s because your manager is. Chances are your manager doesn’t have the skills or behaviors for it. Managers by definition sit closer to, and are responsible for, the delivery organizational results. Therefore, they’ve got to do substantially more heavy lifting when it comes to dealing with people who are under performing and/or not delivering as expected. It’s on them to call people out and have the tough conversations. And, if you’ve got multiple levels of management, chances are you’re breeding the bad behaviors that currently exist.
So how to you turn that around? You build it one day at a time, one conversation at a time. Which may sound a little epic at first. It’s not. How many people do your managers talk to in a day? I’m guessing it’s a lot, either face to face or via email. Every encounter is an opportunity to build and reinforce performance accountability.
Every employee wants to know 2 things:
- What am I supposed to do?
- How am I doing?
Your manager’s ability to answer those questions with clarity and consistency are the key to growing and maintaining a culture of accountability.
End of Part 1.
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