THE one key to your success
OK fine, there is no one secret. That said, as I’ve been digging in with some great companies as a transformation guide and partner, there are a handful of traits that are separating the healthy and effective from the chaotic. I won’t get into the full list here (that’s for later posts 😉) but there is one that is very much a non-starter: accountability.
It may seem simple or even like a throw away. “Of course, accountability matters,” you might be thinking. “We all have to be accountable to make this work,” you are saying right now. Here comes the but… the lip service I see being paid to accountability falls way short of taking the right actions to make damn sure it’s ingrained into the work environment.
Real accountability looks like this: from all the way at the very top to the day-to-day employee, everyone has a strong sense of ownership, investment and pride that it ALL begins and ends with them. Not in an ego-driven, I run this show, type of way – but in a responsible and self-aware sort of way.
A few signs that accountability isn’t prioritized in your company:
1. Blame and finger-pointing is the way of the world – usually email chains trying to get to the bottom of “whose fault is this” are a good hint.
2. Ownership is a scary word – there is a lack of clarity about who owns what, because hey, if no one owns it, no one has to be accountable to it.
3. Success isn’t celebrated – this is a tricky one and maybe at first glance doesn’t seem to fit here. Look at it this way however, when there is collaboration and clear ownership, it’s also very easy to get together to celebrate successes, big and small – which many studies show go a very long way in building morale and an inspired workforce.
Now that we understand what it doesn’t look like, let’s focus on the solution – or at least the baby steps toward establishing accountability across the organization.
As with everything in an organization accountability starts at the top. So for you C-Suite members, managers, project leaders – this is where you can pause and take a good long look at yourselves. Warning: writing prompt ahead!
On a sheet of paper – quickly answer these questions:
1. When something goes wrong here, what is my first reaction?
2. Do my employees understand my vision?
3. What is my role in making this the greatest success possible? Do I play that role every day?
We could go on and on, but let’s start with that. Here’s why – it’s about exploring your own self-awareness and understanding how your actions and reactions set the tone for the rest of the team. The truth is – they’re all watching you for cues on how to behave. Accountability starts from the top.
OK we get it, it starts at the top – but the truth is, it doesn’t end there. At any level in an organization, we can practice establishing behavior and processes that prioritize accountability. This can look like several things, but the important ones to include are:
1. Clarity in ownership and trust of the owners we identify – this means you know who owns which projects or programs and you give them the space to do their job with a little trust.
2. Clear communication against goals – it’s great that there’s ownership – which now means we can hold each other accountable to what we’ve agreed to own with clear communication and tracking against goals. This is a critical piece. If we don’t believe we will be held accountable by our leaders and peers – we are more likely to take our own accountability less seriously.
3. Consequences – for any parents reading this, you know what it looks like when there are rules without enforcement right? Chaos ensues. The same goes for our work environments. We need to become comfortable with consequences as a necessity and not a personal attack. If someone owns something and it doesn’t get done, are they clear what the consequences are? Are you as their manager even clear? Consequences for lack of accountability need to be clearly laid out and communicated, so that they are always consistent and always fair – instead of reactionary or non-existent. Once an action is met with a consequence, it sets forward a different course – that is how change happens.
I’m excited to see accountability really thrive in our companies and even communities. I hope you will try some of these exercises and if you have other effective tricks that you will share them with me.