Leaders play a pivotal role in any organization. They steer change, envision greatness, make tough decisions, guide teams, and ensure seamless operations. As a leader, it is crucial to understand that your approach to accountability sets the tone for your team’s accountability. Cultivating a culture of accountability necessitates everyone owning their actions and outcomes, including behavior and decisions. However, exceptional leaders recognize the power of personal accountability and the need to role model it. As a leader, you can’t mandate accountability; you can only demonstrate it.
WHAT ACCOUNTABILITY IS
Accountability is taking responsibility for one’s actions, decisions, and behaviors. It involves owning up to the outcomes and consequences resulting from our choices. According to IMS educator Linda Galindo, author of The 85% Solution: How Personal Accountability Guarantees Success – No Nonsense, No Excuses, how much responsibility will you take for it the next time you agree to do something? The only acceptable answer is 100%. You need to be 100% personally responsible for the outcome of the effort – good or bad. In other words, you are accountable for everything you are involved with, whether it turns out good or bad or fails because of something you or someone else did. This shift in mindset is not easy.
SIGNS OF A LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY
According to Linda Galindo, signs of a lack of accountability include the following:
- Gossip is accepted as a means of communication and is prevalent among leadership.
- A culture of “treating everyone the same” is mistaken for fairness.
- Employees prioritize job security over job performance.
- Agreements are being broken without facing any consequences.
- Managers spend the majority of their time on babysitting duties.
EMBRACE HONESTY WITH EVERYONE (INCLUDING YOURSELF)
Above all, prioritize honesty with your colleagues, supervisors, loved ones, and friends. By speaking truthfully, you establish yourself as a reliable source of honest opinions, evaluations, and guidance. Although it can be difficult to admit mistakes, taking personal responsibility nurtures integrity and often mitigates the consequences. Ignoring, blaming, or evading problems only allows them to fester and worsen.
Avoid using honesty as a vehicle for blaming others or making excuses. Instead, focus on acknowledging the impact of your actions and exploring ways to address the issue constructively. Take the opportunity to reflect upon the lessons learned.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE ACCOUNTABLE FOR AND WHO YOU’RE ACCOUNTABLE TO
Understanding your areas of accountability and the individuals you are accountable to is crucial for fostering a culture of responsibility. To truly be held accountable, it is essential to have a clear understanding of your commitments. This encompasses the desired outcomes you strive for and the adaptable habits you adopt to achieve them. These habits act as a flexible plan, such as promptly addressing emerging issues, seeking assistance when required, and maintaining regular team meetings. Regardless of deviations from the initial plan, these accountable habits will propel you toward accomplishing your intended outcomes. The absence of clarity regarding your areas of accountability can give rise to confusion, missteps, and a lack of responsibility.
Furthermore, understanding the parties to whom you are accountable is equally essential. If you aim to improve your health and tidy up your living space, you may be accountable only to yourself and your family. However, in a professional setting, achieving your goals necessitates accountability to yourself, your team, and your supervisor. Recognizing the individuals you are accountable for facilitates mutual support, continuous improvement of necessary skills, and collaborative problem-solving. Moreover, the awareness of being accountable to others serves as a motivational factor as you strive not to let your team or family down. Achieving goals becomes more manageable when working together rather than as a solitary endeavor.
To summarize, cultivating a culture of accountability in organizations is critical, and it starts with the leader. Leaders are responsible for embracing honesty, understanding their level of accountability, and establishing a line of communication between themselves and team members. Accountability will become second nature if a culture fosters it – continuously challenging yourself as a leader so you can continually set an example for others. Developing meaningful relationships with employees is crucial for successful leaders. Remember, they understand the power of personal accountability and invest time in the growth and development of their team members.
To learn more tools and techniques on holding yourself and others accountable listen to the interview with Linda Galindo. If you’re working virtually or in a hybrid environment you may want to read John Lankford’s post on Virtual Accountability.
ABOUT CHARLES GOOD
Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.