Accountability is consistently on the Top Ten of my Hit Parade. Leaders regularly ask me questions about it, hoping I will have the magic answer. They ask:
- “How can I get my people to be more accountable?”
- “Why aren’t people accountable anymore?”
- “Can I coach accountability?”
- And more.
I can answer those questions, but the foundational question is, “Why are people so concerned with accountability, and why is it so important?”
It is understandable why people desire greater accountability from others, because it helps some good things happen. Those “good things” tend to fall into two big areas for leaders – personal reasons and organizational reasons.
Let’s start by being a bit selfish. When there is greater accountability among your team members, your life as a leader gets easier. Who wouldn’t want their work to be a little easier? Here are three reasons why things will be easier:
- Less blame. Accountable people spend less time and energy blaming others. The root of blame is “it is their fault, not mine,” and accountability starts with “what can I do?” Imagine a work day where you dealt with no blame…
- Less conflict. Conflict grows in waiting. When you do something to upset me, and I wait for you to fix it, apologize, or change, it can be a long wait. When people are accountable, they think about their part in the exchange, but are also willing to reach out and try to fix or improve the situation.
- Less frustration. One of the reasons I get asked so many questions about accountability is that people are frustrated with others. Read the questions in the opening paragraph again. Do you hear the frustration with others? When we are accountable ourselves, we take a step to improve matters, or, at a minimum, change our perspective about the situation.
Greater accountability isn’t just a nice to have attribute in a team. After all, it is nice if things are easier with less frustration. But can greater accountability make a difference in organizational results? Here are just three examples that prove the answer is a resounding “yes”:
- Better customer service. Think about your worst personal Customer service situation. What percentage of the problem was a perceived lack of accountability in the people you talked to? Did you hear blame about other departments (or your own actions)? Did you get “You will have to talk to that department”? And conversely, think of a situation that started poorly, but the company recovered well. Chances are, someone took responsibility to help get you a better outcome.
- Higher quality. Quality improves with good work processes, but it also improves when people care, take ownership, and are accountable for their work and products. While solid processes are needed for high quality, the best processes alone cannot overcome a lack of accountability among those doing the work.
- Higher productivity. Simply stated, when people are accountable for their work and actions, they will get more done. The reasons are many, but the facts are irrefutable. When you raise accountability, you raise productivity.
While I have framed this for leaders, the reality is that accountability has a 3-D effect – it impacts results for the leader, for the team (and individual team members), and the entire organization. Regardless of which reasons are most important to a person’s perspective, time spent raising your personal accountability, influencing others to raise theirs, or creating a cultural norm of accountability are some of the most powerful things you can do to improve organizational results.
Soon, I will be releasing a 4-part video series titled The Journey to Remarkable Leadership: Why being a better leader will change your work, your results and life – and how to get started now. While you will find the full series valuable, the second video unpacks accountability (and some other leadership challenges) even further. Join the list now to gain access when it becomes available.