There’s a lot of talk about accountability in today’s work environments. But what does it really mean? If you don’t do “X,” then “Y” will happen – is that accountability? In most organizations, people are working across departments, across time zones, even through language barriers to achieve goals for their companies. Creating accountability in the ever-expanding workplace is a multi-layered and multi-dimensional issue in today’s environment.
Even considering the complexity of today’s workplace, creating accountability may not be as hard as we make it seem. For example, some of the root causes I’ve seen for a lack of accountability include miscommunication from leaders and misunderstanding from employees. Without clarity and alignment in these areas, there is no way to create accountability. If a leader thinks his or her people should be doing one thing, but those people heard it as another, how can anyone be successful?
Creating a culture of accountability may start at the top, but it is really the job of the managers in the trenches to execute. Here are some ways people can create accountability in their teams and across their organizations:
- Create Relationships: You need to figure out how to tap into the emotional needs of your people to help them understand their roles. Focus on the relationships first and the results afterward. Leaders need to be more aware of the small things they can do to influence their teams’ happiness, productivity, and contributions – treat them well, respect them as human beings, and open the lines of communication. Do the best things you can for your people – including providing constructive criticism and discipline.
- Set Clear Expectations: People need to know exactly what they are expected to do, what destination they are headed toward, and what the successful outcome looks like. They also need to know what the consequences might be if the goal is not met. Be sure to delineate who owns which roles in the initiative and what each function is responsible for accomplishing. If you are very clear on responsibilities, expectations, and costs of not delivering, people can get there faster. There is less organizational noise to sift through.
- Take Ownership Yourself: What’s your piece? Do you know? Do your people know? Own your part, own the whole, and humbly step up when your piece isn’t going as planned. It takes courage to stick your neck out, but your people will respect you for it, learn from it, and be driven to collaborate with you in new and different ways.
- Provide Tools for Success: Give people the resources they need to do the job you’re asking them to do. Whether that is training, access to data, or the autonomy to make decisions and take risks, let them know what is OK and what you are comfortable with. Help them see the bigger picture, tell them why it matters, and help them understand the impact their contribution will make.
- Give Continuous Feedback: In any work scenario, you have to constantly evaluate if things are progressing as planned and what, if anything, needs to be adjusted to ensure you meet your goal. Check in, give suggestions, and reward positive forward motion among those you are responsible for. A little recognition goes a long way toward making people feel as though their work matters. It also sets the stage for others to emulate that behavior in hopes of being recognized as well.
When you set the roadmap clearly, help people become engaged and involved, and ensure they understand their roles, they will rise to the challenge. You will be surprised, maybe even in awe, of what your people are capable of accomplishing.
People want to do a good job. They want to feel as if they are part of something bigger. They want to be led. If you pave the way, they will follow. Your influence can move mountains.