Accountability – Everything You Do And Everything You Don’t Do Matters
In my private coaching practice, working with business owners and team leaders, the #1 word that flies across my chopping block is: ACCOUNTABILITY.
Accountability ranks right up there with other dirty words that make you want to crawl under a rock when you hear it – because at the core of it, Accountability is the responsibility to Act. And sometimes that’s not easy.
Years ago I had a client who reached out to me for help. In our first phone conversation he said,
“Theresa, I don’t know how to hold my team accountable. Frankly, I don’t know how to hold myself accountable, and my guess is that until I figure that out I’m going to struggle to get the team on track.”
The minute I heard this small business owner say this I knew I wanted to work with him; not only was he willing to admit he had accountability issues in his small business, but he had the courage to call me directly and ask for help. It’s not easy to admit that you struggle with accountability issues, let alone personal accountability. And when it comes to leading teams, this is the greatest deal breaker I have encountered when it comes to high performance.
Accountability issues within your team…
You probably already know if you have accountability issues within your team, but here are some clear indicators that accountability is a real problem in your business:
- Missing deadlines and falling short of hitting targeted, reasonable goals
- Repeated mistakes, even after proper training and development is provided
- Quality issues and important details “falling through the cracks”
- Performance issues of any kind
- Lack of trust
If you find yourself shaking your head, “Yes, we’re dealing with some of these things”, let me share a few strategies that might help you…
5 critical strategies that will help you improve Accountability
- Have specific, measurable goals that are transparent and visible to everyone on the team. Without a scorecard and measuring tool for tracking that is honored by everyone on the team and discussed regularly, I guarantee you will fall short of hitting your goals. It’s like jumping in a car without a roadmap and an unclear destination, with targeted checkpoints along the way; how will you ever get to your journey’s end without a strategy plan, timeline and defined course to arrive on time? Unless you are just in it for a joyride (which most of my small business owners definitely are NOT), then buckle up and do the work it takes to win. This isn’t complicated:
- Set a clear goal.
- Write it down.
- Discuss strategy, as a team.
- And then execute by following the plan.
- If you hit a detour, pull over and regroup and redesign your course.
- Track your progress by reflecting on your commitments and measuring team performance. Daily team huddles, weekly team meetings, and monthly strategy sessions to evaluate results are critical components to keeping a team aligned and on track. What do you need to START, STOP and CONTINUE doing to stay on track and hold each other accountable? You don’t need to wait for year-end planning to ask these questions. As my colleague Marilyn Krichko so eloquently reminds us, “Everything you do and everything you don’t do matters.” So, make every day count by tracking progress and talking openly about where you are having success and where you are feeling stuck. Meetings are powerful accountability structures that you can have in person or virtually, any time.
- Create a clearly defined org chart that identifies every role in your business and the essential elements (responsibilities, duties, expectations) for each of those roles so it is visible to everyone. Whether you have what I will call a “flat organization” (a structure that has few or no real levels of management on the team and primarily team rewards) or a more hierarchical structure (a visible hierarchy of roles with individual reward systems that align), the most important thing I’ve learned working with high performing teams is that everyone on the team needs clarity around what is expected of them and transparent consequences for not carrying out their responsibilities. When these things are not clear, it is very hard to maintain accountability – both for the team members and the team leader.
- Provide personal and professional development growth planning. In my experience, all team members want to learn, grow and develop as human beings. If we know that most people leave organizations when their work feels stagnant and they are no longer growing professionally, then we need to be better about providing training, education, and ownership opportunities. This is where 1:1 and team coaching become so critical to the overall development and wellbeing of our people. Develop a professional development plan with each of your team members, meet with them regularly, as their coach and mentor, and hold yourself and your team member accountable by honoring these meetings and making them interactive and fun. My clients who have high employee engagement do this well and have very few accountability issues on their team.
- Reward the doers. When people achieve success by hitting their goals, they should be celebrated. Whether it’s giving acknowledgement at a weekly team meeting, gifting them something meaningful, or putting up an award in the front office for everyone to see, rewarding the people who are on task and achieving their goals is not only inspiring to a committed team, but it helps to hold everyone accountable. Some people struggle with this because they don’t want to make others on the team feel “left out,” “unaccomplished,” or “discouraged” for not keeping up with the doers. But no one I know has ever felt good about getting a reward for something they didn’t earn. Everyone should have a target, and I believe that once those targets are hit (sales-related, service-related or otherwise), they should be rewarded and celebrated.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but I have learned that having accountability measures in place at all levels of the organization, with efficient systems and structures to keep everyone on track, actually makes leading a team easier. Once you do the work to get accountability issues in check, your mental energy can be used for other more productive things, like enjoying your life and the precious gift you have of leading and developing others.
This is the 2nd of six in a series of Leadership Lessons that I will be posting over the next few weeks…
Whether you are looking for coaching or you would like help with a team event…
call me direct at (425) 241-4855.
I look forward to talking with you!