Your accountability in business is dependent on a culture that you, as a trusted leader, drive.
As a consultant to business owners and executives, I am often contacted by those concerned about employee accountability. They almost always focus on the negative.
Phrases such as “holding people responsible” can imply negative consequences and punishment rather than rewards or coaching team members to make their own decisions and pursue the things that matter most to them.
I challenge you to see accountability positively, as I do in a new book Uncommon Accounting, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. They and I agree that focusing on the positive aspects of accountability will help you achieve the success you want based on years of experience as productivity consultants and successful executives.
1. Establish clear, high-quality standards for performance.
It’s often surprising how little a company’s employees know about its highest values and expectations for performance. Employees need to know what the company’s true organizational standards are. They also need to know the non-negotiable behavior required to be productive members of the team.
Jeff Bezos strongly believes that setting high standards is the key to Amazon’s success. Instead of using slides to present ideas, Amazon’s teams write six-page memos that outline the ideas and are then read aloud at the beginning of meetings.
2. Regular feedback is needed on execution and results.
To ensure accountability, annual performance reviews are not sufficient. Everybody needs informal feedback, sometimes daily, on the direction and work. While constructive feedback can be given publicly, positive feedback should only be received in one-on-one meetings.
All of us have heard the excuse, “Not enough time.” There is always a way. Richard Branson is a manager of many companies and provides feedback by walking around the cabin with his key staff members during the Virgin flight.
3. Every positive result of a performer should be highlighted.
Many team members are familiar with negative consequences, but few can imagine positive ones. It would help if you kept all possible consequences in perspective and did not increase performance. They should be viewed as based on metrics and belong to the performer.
Executives don’t often discuss how employees are selected for fast promotions or paths. This process is based on the assumption that employees are accountable for their actions, whether they succeed or fail.
4. Encourage team members to take ownership of projects.
My experience shows that team member who takes ownership of their work find ways to improve the business and processes. They should feel free to make the necessary decisions to perform well without needing permission. Only decision autonomy can give you real accountability.
A key strategy to encourage ownership is to create a team environment where everyone works together towards common goals and puts more of their “skin” into the game. To make this a culture, you must reward success and avoid negative consequences.
5. Establish trust with all team members.
Accepting responsibility requires trust. Trust is not possible without a relationship. You have to listen to your team members and offer support when needed. Do not give the “right answers” without asking your team members.
The job is more difficult in today’s world, where there are more remote and virtual employees. But it is possible. Your challenge is to master social media and video tools. Be sure to keep all of your conversations and contacts open.
6. Coaching and training in ownership discipline
Coaching is the best way to empower people to take control of their decisions and achieve their goals. Vision, planning, process control and scorekeeping are some of the key ownership disciplines you can provide. It is important to stay positive and be available.
These key strategies will help you stop being tempted to control accountability through negative consequences. Instead, you will be able to shift to the positive, more effective strategy of “holding your team members competent.”