4 ways to bring back accountability to your workplace
In working with senior leaders and C-Suite executives during the past 17 years, something troubling has started to trend: a war being waged...
In working with senior leaders and C-Suite executives during the past 17 years, something troubling has started to trend: a war being waged behind the walls of conference room doors across corporate America’s landscape.
There are many things exceptional leaders do well: take charge, set strategy, empower people, drive execution. What one single behavior would you guess is most often neglected or avoided among executives? The big picture? Delegating? Mapping out detailed project plans? None of these. Upper-level managers don’t hold people accountable enough. Harvard Business Review performed a study of 5,400+ upper-level managers from U.S., Europe, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific (released in 2010). The single most-ignored responsibility of executives, according to the study, is holding employees accountable for their actions or inaction. Forty-six percent are rated ‘too little’ on “Holds people accountable—firm when they don’t deliver.” This research study concluded one of every two managers fail to enforce accountability.
Employees in corporate environments have become increasingly concerned with hurting other’s feelings and being politically correct. As a result they tend to shy away from having tough conversations with co-workers. There are companies however that successfully infuse behavioral accountability into the very essence of the workplace environment. When asked how accountability impacts business, Clate Mask, CEO and co-founder of Infusionsoft, his response was:
“One of our Core Values is ‘We do what we say we’ll do.’ When a human being gets to the point that he or she does exactly what he or she says, then that human being has the power to create with their language. Doing what we say we’ll do is actually the life-long process and discipline of living our word in such a way that we can create the future we want with our words.”
To quote Steve Smolinsky, President of Benari LTD & Region Manager Africa & South America for the Wharton Global Consulting Practicum, “You can’t run a company without accountability.” To achieve honest and unwavering emotional support from your staff around the issue of accountability, here are four easy ways to do it:
Communicate: As a leader, it’s your job to communicate clearly using various mediums, i.e., email, memo, voicemail, the ever-reliable face-to-face, etc. Then offer members of your team an opportunity to echo the message to internalize and demonstrate understanding. This action ensures clarity and reveals blindspots where the message may not have been concisely or clearly worded.
Know your guiding principles: Many companies create esoteric mission statements proudly displayed on the wall for everyone to see. The challenge is getting people to live those words every day within the organization. If the banner is simply for display, it’s time to re-create your mission statement with something easy to understand that resonates with your staff – in fact, get their help in rethinking the concept and mission statement that accurately reflects how they feel about the company. Give them ownership, and they will ‘own it.’ This creates standards to which all employees can be held accountable.
Make it a team effort: Typically, within organizations, one person becomes the ‘accountability’ cop; who end up in the role no matter how much they hate it. In cohesive teams, every member is responsible for holding their teammates accountable to a clear plan of action. This way, it’s the entire team’s responsibility for their peers’ actions and holding them accountable to the agreed upon plan.
Embrace failure: Thomas Edison said: “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” Failure is an important part of the accountability process. It shows you what’s working and what’s not. It allows your organization to succeed based on the goals and values of the organization.
If you—as a leader—want a corporate culture rooted in values-based leadership, you have the responsibility to cultivate trust, accountability, transparency, and consistently do the right thing personally, as well as organizationally. When you are transparent and communicate your expectations with people, the relationships become more genuine and productive. Look for the opportunity to learn, change your thinking and hold your employees accountable to the best versions of themselves. At the end of the day, at the end of the quarter, employees are happier, the bottom line is stronger, and executives are at peace because they know they’ve fulfilled their most important responsibility of all: creating an environment of success.
Originally published in The Philadelphia Business Journal.*
Kelly A. Meerbott, CEO and founder of You: Loud & Clear, Inc., provides leadership consulting focused on helping successful senior leaders achieve positive, long-term change in behavior for themselves, their staff, and teams. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.youloudandclear.com.