How to Create More Accountability at Work

How to Create More Accountability at Work
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Defining More Accountability at Work
Many leaders who evaluate their corporate culture to determine why the organization is not performing at its peak blame a lack of accountability at work. We agree that companies need to consistently perform at higher levels to succeed and that the best leaders make a culture of accountability a priority. But we also maintain that leaders need to shift the way they think about more accountability at work.

The kind of leadership that fosters a high performance culture is not only about defining and enforcing behavioral standards, agreed-upon commitments, and expectations.  It is also directly related to a leaders’ ability to create accountability in the mindsets of the individuals on their teams.

What Leaders Can Do to Create More Accountability at Work
Certainly, it is critical that leaders clearly define and communicate their expectations. But there must also be a transparent and agreed-upon system in place that assesses, rewards, and provides consequences for performance fairly, accurately, meaningfully, and consistently.

Once performance expectations and metrics are clearly established and fairly applied, here are four ways that leaders can encourage their employees to own and self-account for their behavior. Leaders need to:

  1. Create Team Alignment on Goals and Performance Expectations
    Top teams measure success not in terms of individual achievements but in terms of achieving common goals. Work collaboratively together to define what success looks like and how to get there in a way that makes sense to the people AND the business. Setting common, agreed-upon, and achievable goals matters.

    Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for up to 31% of the difference between high and low performing organizations and that highly aligned teams grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable than teams that lack a common a team charter.  Sadly, the majority of employees report that team goals are 50 percent less clear to them than to their bosses.

    Are goals clear enough to truly hold people accountable for achieving them?
  2. Create High Levels of Individual, Team, and Company-wide Trust
    It is almost impossible to create more accountability at work that will last the test of time without strong levels of trust in the company, trust in its leaders, and trust in each other.  Sadly, recent research from Deloitte found that 1 in 4 workers don’t trust their boss and that employers overestimate their workforce’s trust level by almost 40%.

    Smart leaders know that you should act the way you want employees to behave.  That means leaders must be transparent, honest in the face of change, encourage honest feedback, and reward truthfulness.  Smart leaders also know that you should treat employees the way you want them to behave.  When you expect more, you get more.

    Have you created the psychological team safety and trust required to increase accountability in your culture?
  3. Define and Foster the Right Amount of Risk Taking and Learning
    Higher performance is not always a straight line; missteps inevitably occur. The best leaders encourage the right amount of cultural risk taking in a way that aligns with their strategic intent.  For example, some strategies require leaders to celebrate people who take chances (e.g., new high tech startup business line) while even minimal mistakes cannot be tolerated for other strategic initiatives (e.g., manufacturing a new airplane).

    Regardless of your risk profile, if you want to create more accountability at work, incorporate a project post mortem methodology into how work gets done so that it becomes a team norm to understand what went wrong and to learn from the experience for next time.

    Are you encouraging and reinforcing the right amount of risk taking and continuous learning in the right areas to move your strategy forward?
  4. Create Higher Levels of Meaning
    If you are asking employees to be more accountable, you better provide a commensurate level of individual, team, and organizational meaning for them.  At the individual level, know what matters most to each employee and ensure they have the autonomy, confidence, and competence to make it happen.  At the team and organizational levels, invest the time to connect every project and task to the positive impact it has on customers, humanity, the organization, and employees.

    The more explicitly you can hardwire higher levels of meaning into how work gets done on a day-to-day basis, the more discretionary effort people will be willing to give and the more accountable they will hold each other to make a difference.

    Have you created enough meaning for your teams at work to ask for higher levels of performance and accountability?

The Bottom Line
Are your leaders ready to look in the mirror and shift from enforcing employee accountability at work to co-creating a culture of accountability at work for their employees to reach greater heights? To learn more about how to create more accountability at work, download The 3 Levels of a High Performance Culture that Leaders Must Get Right to Increase Accountability

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