Accountability must be one of the most misused, poorly understood concepts in leadership.
For some accountability means punishment – as in “Tom has had a bad month, but noone is doing anything about it. Where is the accountability?”
For many, accountability is mostly something external imposed on you or others – as in “In our culture, leaders hold their people accountable to high standards.”
Yet I think these interpretations completely miss the point. Accountability first and foremost is ownership – internal, intense, and deeply personal. Accountability is a powerful state of mind where a person is focused intensely on doing important things, and has no patience for the misrepresentation and distortion that excuses provide. Accountability is the certainty that the “buck stops here,” not because someone else is imposing it upon you, but because of a choice.
Entrepreneurs struggling to get a business off the ground know something about accountability. They are the business, and any failure or success is completely theirs. There is no time and no audience for excuses. The brutal truth of things is the lifeblood of identifying issues and learning from them.
One of the best books I have read on accountability is, No More Excuses: The Five Accountabilities for Personal and Organizational Growth, by Sam Silverstein. This is an easy read, introducing some simple yet profound concepts of how to be more accountable and sustain personal accountability.
That’s right, the gold star here is a culture of personal, internal accountability.
What if you find yourself in a culture or team not very accountable? Get ready for some serious change management.
5 Tips for Creating a More Accountable Team and Culture
- Define ownership! Seems pretty simple, right? Wrong. Many leaders muck up accountability by making several people accountable, which means none of them really are. Get clear and specific on who owns what.
- Focus on a small number of clear goals. Too many accountabilities is like too many owners. Hone your wants into your critical needs, then get super clear about what defined success. Pick one (ideally) or two. Now you have an objective to which people can hold themselves accountable.
- Communicate the goal and ownership like crazy. Over and over again. Every time you can. Your team needs to internalize this deeply.
- Measure progress against the goal. No good to own progress toward a goal if the progress is not measurable or not measured. Like driving from New York to California but not knowing where you are until you get there. Visibility of progress feeds accountability.
- Pay attention to progress but more importantly pay attention to the state of accountability. The most important thing is the team members holding themselves accountable.
- The Buck Stops Here: A Culture of Accountability Drives Effective Leadership (www.brandonhall.com > Leadership Development Today)
- The Core Principles of Leadership Accountability (www.knowledgewave.com)