Accountability is the new buzz word. Just like excellence in the late 80’s and empowerment in the 90’s, everyone is talking about it and few comprehend how to actually do it.
First, we need to recognize that most people’s definition of accountability is typically a reaction to something happening or not happening rather than a proactive choice. The former happens when something or someone upsets status quo. The later happens when we as leaders are willing to take responsibility for our actions, to do what we said we were going to do, and to ask for support before we need it. In short, accountability from a leadership perspective is the willingness of a person to call their peers or direct reports on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team or the company.
Even though it is a buzz word, accountability is still important. Without it, we can not achieve our strategic goals. Our change process will break down without it. Accountability plays a role in building ownership and it creates enhanced teamwork and trust
After listening to many leaders talk about accountability this year, and discussing it with them, it has come clear to me that accountability in the realm of leadership is all about results. In particular, it is about driving for results through others. It starts with setting clear expectations, having well defined goals and giving feedback routinely.
Proactive accountability helps the organization reach it’s collective goals. The success of accountability reflects the depth of ownership and understanding about what are our individual and collective results. Thus, line of sight and ownership are connected. In short, the purpose of holding someone accountable is to improve their performance, to help them become a better employee, and to achieve our collective results.
The main problem with accountability right now is ambiguity. Poorly defined goals, low or unclear expectations, and irregular progress reviews or coaching sessions cause many problems. Most people being held accountable end up feeling defensive, loose their self-confidence, become more confused than clear and feel wounded rather than competent.
To successfully be held accountable and to accept it in a positive manner, people have to know their SMART goals before accountability works. But more important, they need to be clear about the results or desired outcomes we are seeking. In short, they have to know what is expected of them.
This week, gather your team together and discuss what is the difference between reactive vs. proactive accountability. It will make a world of difference.