Building a Culture of Accountability

Accountability problems may be coaching problems in disguise

A recent Gallup article posed some good perspective on key concepts like “responsibility” and “being held accountable,” which are often viewed negatively by employees. Most likely, authors Andrew Robertson and Nate Dvorak explain, it’s because leaders have tried to mandate responsibility from the top down.

“People are intrinsically motivated to fulfill their commitments for a range of reasons, none of which include being mandated — at least not effectively nor sustainably,” the article says.

The piece goes on to suggest that a top-down approach makes employees feel “less than,” and fails to cultivate trust and freedom. Maybe most important, a top-down approach does not motivate people to be “accountable” or to stay on top of things. In fact, the authors suggest a company’s accountability problem may actually be a coaching problem in disguise.

Instead, leaders can create a culture that promotes accountability through five areas of focus:

  1. Define what people are accountable for. Employees need clearly defined expectations to achieve goals. Managers need to demonstrate accountability through their own availability and time spent on defining what their team is responsible for.
  2. Set and cascade goals throughout the organization. Managers should help people set measurable, individualized goals that align with their individual role. Most, if not all, employees should have metrics defined that help them know if they’re delivering on the organization’s goals. In addition, leaders should prioritize ongoing communication about how everyone’s personal contributions and successes impact the organization’s achievements.
  3. Provide updates on progress. People need information to course correct toward their goals. While feedback can come from various sources or reports, the most effective form of feedback comes from frequent conversations between managers and employees.
  4. Align development, learning and growth. Whether through conversations between managers and employees, or as part of an ongoing developmental path, organizations must provide opportunities for employees to improve, learn and grow.
  5. Recognize and celebrate progress. Praise for good work is the most motivating of all forms of feedback. Identify, celebrate and learn from successes. It motivates employees to stretch and creates responsibility role models for others to follow.

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