Organizational Culture & Values

Creating a culture of accountability that will raise revenue and profits

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, fostering a culture of accountability may not be easy, but it is highly crucial for the continued success and growth of your organization.

A totally accountable workplace isn’t too much to ask for. After all, each of your employees expects 100% of their pay (minus deductions) on time every payday. As promised, no reasons or excuses for it not happening will suffice.

Concurrently, each of your customers expects 100% accountability as well because you told them, “If you do business with us, you can count on us.” You cannot let down your customers. If you do, they lose trust in you and could leave you to go with your competitor.

Why should it be any different with your employees? If they give their word, then you can count on them. After all, that is what you’re paying for: their accountability.

A totally accountable workplace requires effective leadership that inspires individuals to take ownership of their responsibilities, actions and outcomes.

By establishing and promoting the key leadership elements below, organizations can cultivate an environment where accountability thrives, leading to increased productivity, collaboration and overall success.

What is an ‘accountable workplace’ anyway?

Let’s start with the word accountability.

Simply put, accountability is doing what you said you would do, as you said you would do it when you said you would do it. Period. In other words, your word is your bond. You keep your word — no matter what.

The reason most workplaces fail to achieve the accountability test is two-fold.

First, the leaders of the company don’t model accountability. If they don’t keep their word, who’s going to call them on that? They don’t realize that as the leadership team goes, so goes the whole company.

Second, the leaders of the company tolerate non-accountability. As management expert and author Peter Drucker said, “Whatever you tolerate, you get more of it.”

The leaders allow employees to show up late for meetings or allow reports and projects to be late. They “buy” their excuses or reasons.

Remember: The difference between a reason and an excuse is the spelling.

Lead by example

Leadership by example is the foundation of accountability.

When leaders consistently demonstrate accountability in their own actions and decisions, it sets the tone for the entire organization. They must uphold ethical standards, follow through on commitments, and take responsibility for mistakes.

By modeling accountability, and setting others up for accountability, leaders inspire their teams to do the same and create a culture where honesty and integrity are valued.

Establish clear expectations

To foster accountability, leaders must set clear expectations for each of their team members. This includes defining roles, responsibilities, and goals for everyone.

When employees understand what is expected of them, they can take ownership of their work and be held accountable for their performance.

Leaders should communicate these expectations explicitly, ensuring clarity and have a process for eliminating surprises of non-accountability.

How exactly do we do that? Here are 3 ways.

1. Ensure clarity and tracking on delegated goals

Track all the work you delegate and ensure all the delegated work has agreed-on due dates for completion.

First, be sure that any work you delegate goes into an easily, usable tracking system. When employees know you are tracking what you delegate, the odds of it getting done on time and as agreed to go up exponentially. This takes the pressure off you because we have no need to remember what you delegated. It’s in your tracking system.

Albert Einstein said he felt the mind was the poorest place to try to remember anything. He said to use your tools. If your employees do the same thing, you have eliminated two of the most often-used excuses for non-performance: “I forgot” and “I didn’t know when you wanted it done.”

There are a myriad of apps and software to use to track.

So, what are you tracking?

You are tracking only three things:

  1. To whom the work was delegated,
  2. What was agreed to be done, and
  3. When it is to be completed.

Without an agreed-on date and time for completion, it is difficult to prioritize work and track work. It is also challenging to measure success or failure.

I also recommend that you schedule a quick, weekly, five-minute, in-person or virtual one-to-one meeting to track delegated work.

Sort your tracking software or app by the person it’s delegated to and then sort the delegated work by due date. The work is either (A O B D) A (Ahead of Schedule), or O (On Schedule). B (Behind Schedule) or D (Done).

Don’t discuss any of the work except what is B (Behind Schedule). What is the plan to get into the A, O, or D status? It’s a short meeting to keep you up to date and work on scheduling timely completion. Nothing falls through the cracks.

2. Achieve total clarity when delegating

This is how you proactively prevent another often-used excuse for non-performance which is, “I wasn’t sure what you wanted done.” Statistics show that human beings only hear 50% of what is said. When you delegate work to someone, have them repeat or paraphrase what they think they heard or read.

Airline pilots do this as a matter of course. When the air traffic controller gives a pilot an altitude and a heading, the FAA requires them to repeat back to the air traffic controller the exact altitude and heading they heard.

This way, there is a complete and accurate understanding conveyed. In that situation, it can mean the difference between life and death.

In your case, it might not be as serious, but having someone repeat or paraphrase what they think they heard you ask them to do helps to set people up for success.

3. Eliminate surprises of non-performance

A surprise of non-performance happens when a person makes a commitment, it doesn’t happen and, you didn’t know about it beforehand. Make it a hard and fast “No Surprise Rule.”

Tom Watson Sr., the former CEO of IBM, had this rule in the organization. The moment you know you may miss a commitment you must talk to the person you made the commitment to. In this case, that means no emails, texts or phone messages about what is happening.

In addition to letting the person know there is a problem, you must provide three possible solutions to achieve the original goal. That kept responsibility for the problem-solving on the person who made the commitment.

Finally, if the person does not need permission to act on their suggestions, there is no need to contact the person they committed to. They just take the right action. If they fail, debrief the situation, and learn from it.

Creating a totally accountable workplace requires leaders who embody accountability, set clear expectations, promote open communication, provide resources and support, and foster a learning culture.

By embracing these three essential leadership elements, organizations can cultivate a culture of accountability and drive their success in today’s competitive business environment.

Related Resources

De-weaponized accountability for high-performing teams [webinar]

3 essential leadership accountability tips for CEOs


Category: Organizational Culture & Values

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About the Author: Mike Scott

Mike Scott believes that any time invested in training must provide information that has immediate and applicable take-home value. Leverage of “information-to-application” is what he stresses.

Mike uses his in-depth knowledge of tra

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