Most people, leaders included, want to operate in an environment where individuals do what they say they are going to do.
By being reliable, they give other people reasons to trust them and have confidence they will be responsible for their actions.
Leaders who want their team to be accountable first must practice accountability themselves.
But what does it really mean to desire accountability in individuals and teams?
Have you ever found yourself asking:
Ultimately, to be a high-performing team, it is imperative that individuals and groups deliver on their commitments and take responsibility for their actions (to be accountable).
Accountable leaders and organisations deliver predictable results.
The first step to build a culture of accountability is to start with yourself and lead by example. Demonstrate accountability in your words and actions.
This involves discipline to stay on track and be focused on delivering what you say you were going to and not get distracted by other priorities.
Being accountable is also about being forthright when things don’t go as planned and taking responsibility for the missteps.
Once you establish the baseline behaviours and example for accountability, the next step is to develop accountable leaders within your organisation.
It is often beneficial for organisations to sponsor training focused on what it means to be an accountable leader, so that everyone starts with the same definitions and expectations.
Essential to this is helping each person understand their roles and responsibilities; there should be no ambiguity about what each person needs to do to drive company goals.
Additionally, each leader will need a solid of understanding of the goals of the project or the organisation and the support available to them to achieve what’s expected.
The same expectation of individual accountability also needs to apply to the various teams of individuals working together within an organisation.
Teams are made up of individual contributors, but they also need to understand their roles and responsibilities within a team.
When a group of individuals lose sight of the importance of the team, the team can become unproductive. It’s important to emphasise individual and team accountability and when the interests of one should take precedence.
Typically, in emergency or crisis situations, an individual may play a more vital role than the team. However, when the goal is to evaluate a process or establish a new system, the team is the most important role.
Organisations with a culture of accountability get better business results. How do you ensure that teams of individuals know what they are accountable for?
As a leader, it’s your job to ensure that a team is clear on what you expect them to accomplish and what you are holding them accountable for. A valuable framework to follow is the 5Cs for Building Team Accountability.
1. Common Purpose
Help the individuals on a team understand the “why” of the effort. As the leader, you must connect the dots between the team’s objectives and how it will impact or benefit the organisation.
As most leaders are quite adept at explaining the “what” of a task or project, the “why” can often get ignored. When teams can unite with a common purpose they are much more effective.
2. Clear Expectations
Some teams miss the mark when the expectations weren’t outlined clearly from the beginning. As the leader, you must be clear about what you want to be accomplished. These expectations often need to be repeated regularly to keep the team on track.
Consider what you want the end product to be such as one recommendation to solve a problem or would you prefer to receive the top three ideas?
Do you want status reports to be delivered daily via email or a monthly face-to-face project report?
If you don’t outline to this team, their expectations and yours could be misaligned.
Also, is there someone on the team who can take a leadership role to keep things on track and is the one you hold accountable for driving results?
Finally, outline your vision of what success looks like. If you aren’t clear about this, the team may not deliver what you want.
3. Communicate & Align
Teams need consistent communication from you to keep moving forward toward the goal. Just because you set them up with a common purpose and clear expectations initially, it doesn’t mean your work is done.
Your job as the leader is to keep the team focused and aligned so they don’t veer off track. Ask questions, check-in and communicate. Your oversight in this way helps energize the team.
4. Collaborate and Coach
You are a resource for the team and effective collaboration along the way allows for adjustments to be made.
You should coach the team by listening to issues and roadblocks and helping them come up with solutions.
If the assignment you’ve given is truly important, the team deserves your support.
As you make yourself available to the team it creates an important accountability check-in – is everyone doing what they said they were going to do?
Consequences – most importantly, the positive consequences – can’t be overlooked. In order to build team accountability results and consequences must be visible.
Strive to give equal (or more) attention to what’s gone right within the team and celebrate it!
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I hope you have enjoyed these insights. Have a great week and stay growth-focused!