Getting stuff done is often the difference between success and failure. Even the best laid plans can fall short at implementation phase when there is a lack of accountability.

So, what is accountability?

It’s about taking ownership, responsibility and initiative for your actions, behaviours, performance and decisions. Simply put, it’s doing what you say you are going to do, by an agreed time.

It’s about recognising that others in your team are dependent on the results of your work. And it’s about doing the right thing for the business rather than trying to find loopholes and excuses.

The absence of accountability

A lack of accountability has a snowball effect on the rest of the team and on the business. The delay or derailing of projects, missed opportunities and dropped balls impact negatively on the business.

Furthermore, it breeds poor attitudes and a culture of apathy, mediocrity, low performance and passive aggressiveness.

In the absence of accountability, organisations develop a lack of trust. And if you don’t trust your team mate to follow through on what they said they would do, performance and culture suffers.

When not meeting deadlines or targets becomes the norm, high performing employees become frustrated and disengaged. This leads to low morale and success, under these circumstances, is unlikely.

The benefits of accountability

Conversely, when accountability is valued in an organisation, the result is higher performance.

Accountability is linked to an increase in employee commitment. It makes sense… your team is more likely to get things done if everyone is expecting them to do it.

Employee morale increases, constructive conversations are held, and trust is built when a team consistently demonstrates accountability.

So how do we foster a culture of accountability?

Businesses that value accountability encourage collaboration, but support autonomy.

There are two reasons why we resist holding others accountable. Firstly, we feel uncomfortable doing it, and secondly, we forget.

In order to be successful, everyone needs to buy into the collective strategy. Individual roles need to be clear, and everyone needs to understand the specific tasks and projects they are responsible for. There’s no place for passing the buck or “it’s not my job”. If the team is clear on this, it’s easier to hold each other accountable.

In addition, it is important to create an environment of openness, trust and honesty. Employees need to feel safe to approach others in the team for help. Similarly, when mistakes are made or delays occur, they need to be able to raise a flag. Often, a situation can be resolved and salvaged if the issue is raised in time.

Accountability often requires tough conversations. However, if you get into the habit of giving and receiving regular feedback – both positive and negative – it becomes easier over time.

Keep track of commitments and deadlines and review progress on an ongoing basis. Follow up at regular status meetings, one-on-one meetings or in weekly reports.

Lead by example  

Even leaders need help to stay accountable. Business leaders are often too focused on day-to-day activities. In addition, because they have no one to “report to”, it is easy to procrastinate and delay tasks and actions. That is where a business or executive coach is handy…

Fostering a culture of accountability in your team will not only improve employee morale and productivity, but it will also give your team the autonomy and sense of ownership they need to truly thrive. If you feel accountability is lacking in your team, it’s time to make some changes!

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