How to Create a Culture of Accountability

create a culture of accountability

A Culture of Accountability Sets the Stage for High Performance
The best leaders create a culture of accountability.  To succeed, companies need to consistently perform at higher levels – and they cannot afford to miss the mark.  For leaders this means bigger goals, increased complexity and tighter budgets.  For employees this means higher expectations, an increased pace of change and the need to do more with less.

Too many organizations are not performing at their peak because their leaders have not created a culture of accountability that sets the stage for consistently high performance.

Two Phases to Create a Culture of Accountability
There are, fundamentally, two phases to building a high performing culture of accountability:

First, Set Clear Performance Expectations
In order to perform the right tasks in the right way, employees need to be clear about exactly what is expected of them.  Clear performance expectations help to make sure employees focus on DOING the activities that align with the overall company strategy and BEHAVING in a way that aligns with cultural standards.

Second, Establish a Fair and Transparent System of Accountability
The only way to ensure that performance expectations are met regularly in a way that makes sense is to set up a company-wide system that exposes where people stand relative to performance expectations.  The best systems are fair, timely, accurate and relevant.

Four Attributes to Create a Culture of Accountability
Here is what you need to if you want to create a culture of accountability:

1.  The Critical Few Objectives
If you set up too many goals, you risk confusion, overlap, and a loss of focus. Identify no more than three core objectives at each level.  Each employee should know how what they do contributes to the team goals and, ultimately, to the company goals.  The objectives should be achievable with challenging, but reasonable, effort.

2.  The Means to the End
Identify the specific resources needed for success and the obstacles you need to overcome at all the company, team and individual levels. It is the leaders’ job to be sure that employees have the means to achieve the desired end result.  This can include training, access to special expertise, additional funding, more personnel and, above all, the leaders’ unwavering support.

3.  Tracking and Sharing Accountability
Teams need to hold frequent meetings to track progress toward the goals and share lessons learned. Results should be transparent to all.  When there is a lag, the whole team should work together to figure out what is going wrong and how to fix it.

4.  Consequences
From the get-go, employees need to understand that they will be held accountable for results. If there is substandard performance, team leaders need to take action –  either to provide additional support or, after a reasonable trial period, let the poor performer go.  If there is outstanding performance, recognize the results with congratulations, a bonus, additional autonomy, greater visibility, more flexible hours or whatever would be meaningful to the high achiever.

The Bottom Line
When you create a culture of accountability where employees regularly make and keep commitments, you have created an environment of high performance where trust and continuous learning are the predominant values.  It takes hard work and commitment, but it’s worth it.

To learn more about how to create a culture of accountability to increase performance, download The 3 Levels of a High Performance Culture

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