Accountability starts at the top


Accountability — that quality of personal responsibility and ownership — can be difficult to establish and easy to lose. It’s also more elusive than you might think in today’s business world. A Harvard Business Review survey shows almost 50 percent of managers are terrible at accountability. That’s not surprising, because accountability isn’t something you can do halfway. No executive or business can be “sort of accountable.” It requires a commitment from the top and adoption throughout the organization.


Download a PDF of this article here


The term “accountability” often carries the negative connotation of the person who is to blame when something goes wrong. I see it differently: It’s the ability of a person to provide focus on an initiative, make the necessary decisions and garner support from their organization to achieve success. Accountability must be built into a corporate culture. It’s in the operating rhythm of how high-performing companies work. Everyone must trust that their colleagues will complete projects and to a high degree of quality for everyone to be successful.

Let’s look at five ways to make accountability part of your business world:

1. Be reliable and consistent. Do what you say you’re going to do and expect the same of others. The path to accountability is through consistency, predictability and follow-up. As leaders, we need to be accountable in terms of providing interim guidance throughout the project and not just at the end.

2. Communicate your expectations clearly. Don’t assume someone can fill in the gaps. For people to succeed, they need to know what the successful completion of a project looks like. This includes key metrics, dates, costs, etc. Give team members the opportunity to ask questions to get a full understanding before starting their projects. It’s then that they can take full ownership.

3. Empower employees. Once everyone understands the expected results, they should be empowered to get the job done. They should have adequate resources and structure to allow them to succeed. They shouldn’t have to circumvent process or continuously fight upstream as a means to achieve successful outcomes.

4. Foster collaboration and mutual accountability. Ensure everyone knows what major initiatives are on each other’s plates. It’s amazing how effective a business can be when people talk to each other and hold each other accountable.

5. Create a learning environment. It would be nice if everyone completed everything right on the first attempt. That’s just not realistic. Rather than overreact when someone drops the ball, try to create an environment where people learn from mistakes. Likewise, take responsibility for your own decisions, good or bad, to model the behavior.

In the end, accountability can’t feel forced. It must be authentic, consistent and organic. It’s not something that you can just mandate and it happens. While holding others accountable, you as a leader have to be accountable as well. Accountability comes when a workplace operates as a high-functioning team, where colleagues understand their expectations and help and depend on each other. In these environments, you can see constant progress taking place in a positive, predictable way that your followers can get behind (e.g., get healthy, be happier, become more productive, travel more, live better).

 

This article previously appeared in American City Business Journals.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Predefined Skins

Primary Color

Background Color

Example Patterns

demo demo demo demo demo demo demo demo demo demo

Privacy Policy Settings

  • Required Cookies
  • Performance Cookies
  • Functional Cookies
  • Advertising Cookies
These cookies are essential in order to enable you to move around the Sites and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the Sites and using Vistage’s Services. Since these cookies are essential to operate Vistage’s Sites and Services, there is no option to opt out of these cookies.
These cookies collect information about how visitors our Sites, for instance which pages visitors go to most often. These cookies don’t collect information that identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.

Cookies used

Visual Web Optimizer
These cookies remember information you have entered or choices you make (e.g. as your username, language, or your region), and provide enhanced, more personal features. They may also be used to provide services you have asked for such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. They may be set by us or by third party providers whose services we have added to our pages. If you do not allow these cookies then some or all of these services may not function properly.

Cookies used

Google Analytics
GTM
Gravity Forms
These cookies are used to make advertising more relevant to you and your interests. The cookies are usually placed by third party advertising networks. They remember the websites you visit and that information is shared with other parties such as advertisers. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.