Individuals and teams derive their accountability not from being directed to do something but rather by being empowered to make choices around how best to approach the work in front of them. This concept is based upon a key tenet of the total quality management framework that recognizes that the people closest to the work have the greatest ability to impact its outcome. Our role as leaders is to create a culture wherein its members embrace accountability and in doing so, produce results for the organization that may actually exceed expectation.
What’s at Stake?
Accountable organizations are able to deliver, and at times exceed the results expected of them. Creating a culture of accountability helps to produce synergies that otherwise may not be achievable. I know that I am stating the obvious here but organizations exist to deliver results and a culture of accountability helps to ensure that this happens. Conversely, organizations that are not committed to accountability will struggle to consistently deliver the demanded results. We all know what happens (or at least what should happen) if we fail to deliver and as leaders, it is our responsibility to deliver so even if the culture lacks accountability, we can, and should, be held accountable for failure.
What Can I Do to Encourage It?
Elevating your view and that of your team members from the multitude of tasks to be accomplished to achieving results is a good place to start. Reviewing your job descriptions and shifting their focus from a laundry list of responsibilities to the impact expected of the role can help to lay this foundation. Working with your team members to set clear, measurable goals that focus on delivering these results and then taking the time to ensure that everyone is aligned is essential.
Of course, team and individual competence must be considered, and if need be developed, before expecting the ability to deliver. Once this has been established, your role then shifts to empowerment, assessing results, and providing thoughtful, timely feedback. You will know that you’ve delivered an accountable organization when its members are not only capable of delivering the expected results, but also want to do so. “Can do” v. “want to” is the key dynamic here.
What Outcomes Can I Expect?
Investing the time and effort needed to create and then reinforce a culture of accountability will pay dividends. The synergies realized by an organization that can elevate its thinking to achieving results v. completing a laundry list of tasks and activities can be profound. The initial successes that are certain to be realized can serve as a major boost to the confidence and a springboard to even greater achievements down the road. At the broadest level, a culture of accountability will lead to improved performance, enhanced creativity and innovation, and higher employee engagement levels.