Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
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How to develop accountability as a leader

As a leader of an organization, accountability is what we strive for every day, but it does not come easily. Achieving a corporate culture of accountability starts at intrinsic levels, and must be fostered by leaders and managers. Ideally, accountability becomes part of the organization’s expectations and is a source of pride.

To make accountability more of a priority, put it in the company’s mission statement.
A mission statement might include:
“We expect accountability. One of our values is that everyone thinks as though they own this company. Everyone’s work matters.” People will take accountability because it is a common value in the workplace, and it’s promulgated in the company’s mission statement.

Accountability is taking ownership of one’s work and actions. Accountability also means being responsible for fulfilling tasks or meeting deadlines, so accountability in leadership translates into ownership. The best teams have individuals who hold themselves responsible for their roles and responsibilities, and they can be counted on to get tasks accomplished.

Accountability needs to be practiced and instilled at all levels.  It should be part of the onboarding process with new people.  When you hire an employee, make sure they know what is expected from them.  Their work will reflect your expectations. It should be emphasized and practiced by leadership, including board members.

Here are 7 ways your leadership team can create accountability within the workforce:

1. Be a positive role model. Lead accountability by example. It’s nearly impossible for your team to take ownership of their work if you’re not showing them the way. If people see that you aren’t always checking your email or filling out that report on time, they’ll assume it doesn’t matter either. Make sure that when you say something needs to be done, it will get done, and do so yourself while providing guidance and support along the way.

2. Own mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes as a leader, but when you do, don’t point fingers or blame someone else. Raise your hand up and own up to what happened. This sends a signal that accountability is expected from everyone on the team, including the person in charge. When employees see leaders taking responsibility, they also expect it from themselves.

3. Be done by the deadline. Accountability means accountability for specific tasks. It also means accountability for deadlines, delivering on promises, and getting work done properly and on time.

4. Encourage cooperation. Sometimes people do not cooperate because they feel they are being judged against others. Creating a culture of cooperative engagement is critical to creating the mindset of accountability.

5. Get a partner. A critical first step to beginning systematic accountability is finding a partner or two – people you can trust, who help you stay on track. In return, you help them stay focused on what they need to do.  Accountability partners hold each other accountable when people need ideas, reminders, or motivation to not let others down. For instance, if you are meeting with someone on a particular day to finish a report, you could set up accountability partnerships with your coworkers who will hold you accountable for your end of the report.

6. Make an accountability commitment. Leaders need to make it known to others that accountability is something that is important to them and what they need, by deadlines, to work best. Leaders who ask for commitments from their people also need to be accountable for making the same commitment back in return.

7. Incentivize accountability. What gets rewarded gets repeated. Incentivizing accountability can work to motivate people to do accountability. You can do this by giving them an incentive to help build their accountability. Leaders can provide bonuses when they reach a milestone or when exceed expectations.

The most successful organizations with the best teams have individuals who hold themselves responsible to achieve results.


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