4 Ways to Fix What’s Wrong with Accountability
The chief end of accountability is nudging people toward their potential by leveraging untapped talent. The secondary end of accountability is getting things done.
Who you are comes before what you do.
#1. Choose internal before external:
Accountability that energizes people is helping them live up to their talent, values, and aspirations. Help people see who they might become. De-energizing accountability is imposed from the outside by people in power.
Hold people accountable to their highest aspiration and greatest contribution.
#2. Begin in the right place:
Accountability goes sideways when leaders impose expectations on reluctant followers. The starting point of accountability is where people want to go, not what you pressure them to do.
The ultimate starting point of accountability is what kind of horses are in the barn and where can they go.
The process of accountability begins by accepting people for who they are.
#3. Understand the power of commitment:
Commitment precedes accountability. Commitments are given, not forced.
Accountability is resisted until commitments are given.
Accountability without commitment is futile. People who aren’t committed find fault. People who are committed find a way.
- Shared purpose. Why are we doing this in the first place?
- Shared beliefs and values. They must believe in the goal before committing to work toward it. Energizing accountability begins with belief; de-energizing begins with results.
- Actionable behaviors that align with talent and strengths. Exactly what are they committing to do?
- Observable progress.
- How are people developing and advancing themselves?
- What’s within their control?
- How are they bringing value to colleagues and customers?
#4. Deal with the roadblock:
Talent wants – needs – to succeed. The obstacle of accountability is fear of failure. They won’t commit until there’s reasonable certainty that progress is possible.
Show people how they will succeed before expecting accountability.
How might leaders establish accountability that creates energy?
Dan, this is the most powerful piece on accountability I’ve seen. Few companies know how to attract and hire the right people or know what to do when they accidentally get the right people. The folly of leaders is thinking, “Because I write your paycheck I own you.
Thanks Alan. Great hearing from you today. Thanks for your kind words.
You’re nailing it. A paycheck isn’t permission to treat people like slaves.
Who you are comes before what you do. True. And what you do proves who you are.
Accountability is defined as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions”. It is where people want to go, but it is also about where people need to go. It’s on that latter point we can get tripped up – but this is where we need to be clear that accountability falls on everyone. As leaders we have an accountability to our teams. If we follow through, and they follow through – and we hold each other accountable – we’ve created what I call an “accountability circle”.
Accountability isn’t an one direction mechanism. That’s a reporting function. Accountability is a circle and it must be given as much as it is expected to be received.
Thanks Alf. I’m so glad you shared your insights. I’ve learned more on accountability from you than anyone else.
Your comment regarding mutual accountability reminds me of the CEO of Red Hat. He said something like, think that you are as accountable to them as they are to you.
I was hoping you’d jump in on this one. Thanks again.
Wow, love this: “Accountability without commitment is futile. People who aren’t committed find fault. People who are committed find a way.” Leaders need to be committed to a group effort with everyone engaged –> group members committed to ‘finding a way’ as you say!!!
Not only does commitment need to precede accountability; if it doesn’t, I expect that accountability will have to be the demanding carrot-and-stick approach!!!
Thanks John. You’re nailing it again. Bring out the carrots and sticks if people aren’t committed. The path is doomed to frustration.
Thanks for consistently bringing value.
“#4” is spot on — that said how do we best challenge toward growth beyond known abilities?
Thanks Ken. First of all, helping someone explore their fears, may be helpful. What is behind the fear of failure and how might you answer those concerns?
In addition, how about:
Create safety nets.
Nurture a culture where learning from failure is honored.
Connect people with mentors when they are stretching themselves.
What you mentioned, Dan, is focused mostly on people who need encouragement to do more and different things because they are afraid or reticent for other reasons.. I find that often the people I have managed and manage just need opportunities to try new things or express their interest in doing something else. Encouraging, supporting and nurturing improve the chances for growth beyond known abilities.
..and simply expressing that progress is possible is powerful.. “I believe you would be very good in this new role.. here’s why..”
Accountability has become an over-used term, we should stop using it.When we are committed accountability is the tool we use on myself. I hold myself accountable when I’m committed
Thanks chefronp1. Absolutely. The only real accountability is self-accountability.
I’d love to see more on the connection between clear expectations and accountability. Too often, people are held accountable when what they are being held accountable to accomplish is not clear or has not been mutually agreed upon. Accountability and setting expectations are linked. Here’s an interesting article from last year on this: https://trainingmag.com/great-expectations-it-can-be-dickens-time-holding-others-accountable
Thanks Deborah. Let’s get clear on what we are actually doing and what success looks like! Sometimes a boss might be frustrated with someone who doesn’t even know what they are expected to do.
You bring up an important topic.
It works both ways. Many times, the subordinate is even more frustrated because the expectations aren’t clear or keep changing. I DO think it is important. I’m seeing, more and more frequently, a disconnect between clear expectations (or lack thereof) and how accountability works.
Accountability requires clarity on both ends of the project, the staff, management, craft etc.! Making oneself accountable for what is required of you and others tremendously important! Poor guidance can and does lead to poor results! Paying attention to what is expected is crucial and completely doing what is expected completes the cycle. Maintainin ones composure as a leader and a worker work hand in hand! Know what you want done and know what your doing enhances the journey.
Nicely said, Tim. Once again accountability becomes a two way street. If you expect people to be accountable, you should put high accountability on yourself to establish clarity.
Thanks for consistently sharing your insights.
Dan, Your welcome! You have compelled me to open up life’s lessons to share, so thank you and I look forward to being part of life’s journey to help others. Cheers Tim
This is exactly what I was driving at the other day Tim. RE: PERCEPTION making sure your audience, your team, and quite possibly your entire organization ALL COMPREHEND, “as though each reads from the same sheet of music. 🙂
Great comments today Dan, Tim, and everyone else for that matter.
Ya know…. Hey Dan, terrific topic! You cannot force people to be accountable. However, you can expect them to be accountable. This is always a stumbling block for the “do as I say, not as I do” climates. Being accountable is something that people aspire to be based on the importance of it. If you have an organization that lacks in the arena of accountability, then surely you can not expect it. Accountability is not an item of convenience that can be brought to the table and served-up while heaping portions of culpability are being dished out. Awesome Dan!
Good morning Brent;
So very true Pardner. Accountability is rarely a convenience. And it’s ‘not’ something you can force on someone. You cannot teach someone to be accountable who could care less. This is why it is so important to look & listen for opportunities to set positive examples for others to see. “That’s how we learn…”
Dan, Big Gracias for the post and Homerun!
I Loooove this statement: Hold people accountable to their highest aspiration and greatest contribution. Their contribution matters! Force always negates. Order an then movement, if you reverse the two you have chaos..Chaos is a part of the dysfunction in the organization.
We were discussing this among some of of team. Far too often members are held accountable and the word used often is they were not responsible. If we take a look at the heart of the organization, the members were probably never truly never Empowered, which includes the Trust to fail. I share in a discussion that we must be Committed to the People and the Process otherwise we will drift. The drift is very subtle but deadly.
Dan, I believe is the best extract about accountability and commitment relation I’ve read. Thank you. You must be proud.