How a Culture of Accountability Fits with Talent Strategy

Fingers point to the one person out of ten to choose for succession planning

Brett Hoebel, fitness expert and author of The 20-Minute Body, has some advice that belongs in the corporate world as much as in the health club: “If I could give one tip for people – it’s not an exercise or nutrition regimen. It’s to walk your talk and believe in yourself, because at the end of the day, the dumbbell and diet don’t get you in shape. It’s your accountability to your word.”

All too often when leaders seek to hire the talent they believe will enhance their workforce and speed the journey to the strategic objectives they have set, they focus more on skills than the approach needed to apply those skills with commitment, discretionary effort and energy. All too often, in other words, well-intentioned leaders neglect to check thoroughly for a candidate’s sense of accountability. When all is said and done, what we need are workers who pay attention to what they have agreed to do and who exert their utmost effort to accomplish it.

To be accountable means that you understand what is asked of you, you take responsibility for your actions, and you honor commitments even when it requires personal sacrifices to do so. What is it like when there is no accountability in the workplace?
• No one does their work as they should
• Others are blamed for lack of performance
• There are little to no consequences for poor work habits

It’s easy to see where this can lead…to a disengaged, underperforming work force, high turnover, and a downward spiral that leads only to failure.

How can leaders reverse such a drastic trend? By taking the following steps:

1. Set the example.
When things go wrong as they inevitably do at some point, acknowledge your role in the situation. Accept responsibility. No excuses or blame. Show that you have the strength to admit mistakes and can learn from them.

2. Set clear expectations and goals.
How can you expect employees to act responsibly if they are unclear on what is asked of them? Work together to create clear, compelling and believable goals. Assign distinct roles for achieving them. Then check again and again to be sure tasks and timelines are understood and agreed to.

3. Set up a system for rewards and consequences.
Employees need to know where they stand. Transparency, accuracy and consistency are important here. The performance measures of individuals should be visible to the entire team. When performance is exemplary, recognize and reward. When performance is substandard, act right away to address the problem…either extra support, a different assignment or time to exit gracefully. Top talent will flee if you allow mediocre performers to stay on the team.

4. Clear away any obstacles.
Sometimes an individual’s sincere effort is not enough. Your job as leader is to see that your employees have the support, tools and the resources they need to succeed in their jobs.

5. Create an open environment conducive to continuous learning.
Be sure that your culture accepts mistakes as long as they are acknowledged and used as opportunities for learning how to do it better the next time.

Take charge as leaders to create a culture of accountability. Otherwise, no matter how good your talent strategy, your workforce will have little incentive to consistently perform at their best.

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