Frequently our Executive Leadership Coaches meet leaders who are frustrated by people unwilling to take accountability for their actions, results, and outcomes. After doing this work for 15 years we continue to see the same missteps being taken in the way accountability is set, such as:
- It is implied and lacking specificity;
- Appears as a surprise where people are unaware they are being held accountable;
- Assigned after the fact – particularly when desired outcomes are not achieved;
- Imposed without adequate discussion and negotiation;
- Naively accepted without thinking.
When accountability is not set correctly it more often than not results in blame and finger pointing, not to mention the huge cost of the hours spent reworking/correcting what has not been delivered. Productivity falls as people become demotivated and disenchanted. Rather than fostering a performance culture, the opposite occurs; people wriggle out of situations for which they are accountable, pass decisions to others, and react to situations as they occur.
Here are five key steps to follow that we believe will ensure accountability is well set:
- It starts with a negotiated agreement between two or more parties that specifies clear roles for all involved, clear authority levels, deliverables, and timeframes. Of these four areas, it is correctly assigning authority levels that is most often overlooked by leaders and managers;
- Detailed, visible, tangible, and believable milestones are put in place that signal along the way the goal is being achieved and when the end goal is met;
- There is clear and concise explanation of positive and negative consequences of completion or non-completion of activities and actions;
- Sufficient resourcing (people, time, budget, and materials) is available;
- Commitment is asked from those involved, meaning they will complete agreed actions no matter what the challenges.
Accountability is binary – people are either accountable or they’re not.
In accepting accountability people are giving their personal guarantee that what they have committed to do will be done on time, to agreed standards, and to budget.
When people are not prepared to accept accountability what is being offered to a leader is a best intention meaning people will give it their best effort, however if the desired outcomes are not achieved, so be it.
We question how many best intentions are accepted instead of leaders investing time right ‘up-front’ to lock down real accountability, and how many leaders accept best intentions believing they have real accountability in place.
For leaders, taking setting accountability seriously delivers a strong return for the time invested and substantially reduces the risk of key initiatives not being delivered.
Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers to create the conditions that allow their people to do their best work every day thus creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its outcomes.