Don’t you love that employee who goes beyond expectation? They take responsibility, show initiative and own projects, processes and problems. They are driven by accountability – owning the good with the bad.
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When designed for accountability, an organisation and its employees flourish. When not, you’ll only have a few exemplary employees – until they eventually stop making an effort or move on. So why is it seen as a ‘negative’? Perhaps, as leaders, we need to give thought to how we manage this phenomenon. Are we clear about expectations, are we consistent in approach, are we fair to all? Or do we wait until it’s so bad that we end up in disciplinary conversations?
Holding people accountable requires two key elements – they need to have the means and the ability to fulfil clearly articulated Key Performance Areas (KPAs).
Clear roles, leadership and ownership
People struggle when tasks and processes are ambiguous. Clear direction is vital to allow teams to identify gaps, learn new tasks and processes to build capability.
Related: It’s all about accountability for sales managers
Ownership for results
How are teams working toward goals and outcomes? Are they effective? Are they encouraged to feel 100% accountable for improving the process? Can they (and the organisation) measure success? Each person should feel a responsibility to seek ways to improve, give and receive feedback, and point out the need for corrective action at any time.
Freedom, support and control
Most problems have multiple solutions, so give liberty and power to make decisions. The first solutions teams come up with will probably be pretty good. Improve on them, instead of inserting your own. Support is the key. With this approach, teams increase their skills, confidence and ownership.
It’s not about punishment
If your goal in fostering accountability is to know who to punish for missed targets, you’ve missed the boat and will create a culture of fear. It’s about catching people doing things right, and celebrating those moments.
Accountability is the foundation of a learning organisation. If you want sustainable, high-quality processes, you need to be able to see and analyse what is and isn’t working, and why. To do that, employees need to share openly. Use that information wisely to support, empower and redirect.
Related: The buck stops with you
Evaluation made easy
In accountable organisations, no one flies ‘under the radar’. In fact, they seek feedback because they know it is intended to improve processes and add to their knowledge. They own mistakes. They ‘man’ up. It’s important for organisations to use multiple forms of feedback and evaluation to assess success, to prevent discovering shortcomings when it’s already too late – and to reward those doing well as they do so.
Be fair. Be consistent. Be honest. Don’t shy away from crucial conversations because they aren’t nice to have. If you care about your staff, you will want them to succeed. Create the boundaries and the environment to fly.