SIMPLY Creating a Culture of Accountability

Personal accountability is an admirable trait, one that everyone should strive to attain. But as a leader, or a high-functioning member of a team, are you striving to create a culture of accountability? - By: C.J. Goulding

Let’s start off with a little story that might sound familiar:


This is a story of four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Accountability is an odd concept. It has been defined as having the responsibility and authority to act and fully accept the natural and logical consequences for the results of those actions. While some may attach a negative air to the word accountability, research indicates that holding people accountable for their results has very positive effects: greater accuracy of work, better response to role obligations, more vigilant problem solving, better decision making, more cooperation with co-workers, and higher team satisfaction.

The S.I.M.P.L.E way to create a culture of accountability:

Set expectations

It is important to set firm, clear, and concise expectations. Accountability will not grow where team members are unsure of the group’s purpose and vision. Teams need to know what are the expectations before you can expect them to be held accountable. You can set expectations by:

· Clearly communicating the mission and vision.

· Emphasizing the urgency and importance of whatever task is assigned.

· Laying out the standards that will be upheld throughout the process.

· Be specific regarding end results, time frames, and expected levels of effort.

· Clearly and explicitly defining each member’s role and responsibilities.

Invite commitment

Although you may make these initial conditions and goals clear, it is important to have the team members commit to standards and expectations. Work with your team to make sure that everyone commits to their role, understanding how it will benefit both the individual and the team. Be sure to put it in writing, too. This will give the commitment a physical representation that cannot be debated. Accountability grows when this connection is made, and is enhanced when other people are aware of the commitment.

Measure progress

Measure the progress of team members in alignment with the goals and expectations set out at the beginning. Goals can only be measured when they are quantified. Compare the measured results to the goals to find out where team members need the most improvement.

Provide feedback

After setting clear expectations, committing to set goals, and measuring progress, it is important to provide feedback to team members so that there can be improvement towards the goal. When creating an accountability culture in a company, make sure that the feedback that you do give highlights both the positive things that the team member has done and the areas where they can improve.

Link to consequences

Sometimes employees need a little external motivation to live up to their commitments. When they struggle to reach their goals, you can help them by administering appropriate consequences. Do not confuse consequences with punishments. Punishments are those things inflicted on employees that make them pay for their shortcomings. They do not contribute to a solution. Consequences, however, will guide and focus employees' behavior and encourage them to take their commitments more seriously.

Evaluate effectiveness

Not all methods of operation are effective! Waiting until the end of the process or project to evaluate the effectiveness can severely hamper the potential of you as an individual or your team as a whole. Step aside and assess the plan and the participating team members. Evaluate the effectiveness of each component, good and bad, in relation to the goal and mission.

An accountability culture does not end with evaluating effectiveness, and it is not established by going through the process once. Assess the efficiency of the process and the team and use the information you have gained to improve the process moving forward. It will make for a much more efficient team and will definitely enhance trust between team members.

Cecilia Goulding is a free-lance writer and public speaker that loves figuring out what makes people tick, looking for tips on communication, improving human relations, and sharing her knowledge with others.

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