On the driver seat

Peter Drucker once said, “Only three things happen naturally in organizations: Friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”.

When the performance of an organization is stagnating or even declining, leaders attempt to correct course by adjusting strategy and optimizing operations, or by allocating additional resources to struggling projects and onboarding new talent hoping to close performance gaps. These efforts, however, do not address the underlying corporate culture and seem to lack commitment to building a culture characterized by accountability.

Building accountability in the workplace starts by defining a set of clear organizational objectives. Three to five meaningful, measurable, and memorable “must-deliverables” that define organizational success and enable alignment across the organization.

Accountability gets results. Accountability means responsible behavior and ownership. And it is fully required at every single organizational level. While responsibility is associated with clearly defined duties and roles, accountability is the proactive, dynamic, forward-facing process of exercising one’s agency in order to achieve a goal. Accountability is the personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.

Accountability occurs when individuals reliably deliver on their commitments, showing others they can be trusted to do what they say they’ll do. When individuals demonstrate accountability through their actions, they are setting the pace for leadership and performance excellence. They’re also showing others how to be accountable for doing what they say they’ll do. Leaders can be pacesetters and demonstrate accountability by exhibiting discipline, integrity, and execution. In other words, by staying on track and not getting derailed by competing priorities or desires; by being honest about the likelihood of delivering on commitments and apologizing when something goes wrong; by mastering new skills and behaviors and striving to achieve executional excellence.

The positive effects of practicing accountability comprise:

  • Improved performance
  • Higher employee engagement
  • Increased feelings of competency
  • Heightened commitment to work from employees
  • More innovation and creativity
  • Higher satisfaction at work

What can leaders do to start creating a culture of accountability?

  • Before approaching an accountability conversation with coworkers or direct reports, start with yourself. Encourage others to hold you accountable regardless where you are on the organizational chart. Leaders will be even more effective in building a culture of accountability when they are willing to be held accountable by others.
  • Start an accountability conversation by creating psychological safety for your team. Care about their goals, frame objectives and respect as mutual. Common ground needs to be established before raising a problem.
  • To build accountability in the workplace, leaders have to convey the purpose behind the work, create an environment of autonomy, and communicate specific expectations transparently.

In our joint article with Dr. Robert Hogan and Dr. Ryne Sherman, we describe how overly charismatic leaders will gladly be responsible for the things they deem worthy, especially when it provides an opportunity to be the center of attention. However, when others place responsibility on these narcissistic leaders, they will see this as an attempt to control them, and they escape from all liability through intimidating, blaming, accusing, arguing, denying, attacking or avoiding. Read more about how you can help them keep their derailers in check and step up to exhibiting leadership accountability.

Want to learn more about how you can self-direct your development as a leader? In our step-by-step guide you will come to know what it takes to be accountable for your own development and achieve the desired outcomes. Enjoy!

Personality in the workplace matters. Greatly. It requires strategic self-awareness to be able to manage and balance one’s own flaws and tendencies. It also requires the ability to diagnose where others are at and help them be accountable.

At RELEVANT we work with Hogan Assessments. Hogan is the leading global provider of research-based assessment solutions. RELEVANT helps companies use personality assessments to increase accountability and improve productivity by hiring the right people, developing key talent and assessing leadership potential. Talk to us. We are only an e-mail or a phone call away.

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