Senior Client Partner, Workforce Transformation Practice Leader
Accountability itself is nothing new, but what it means is changing. It’s not just about getting things done, but also about how you do it.
Customers, shareholders, investors, employees and often governing bodies like the SEC are demanding more transparency. They want to see organizations making more commitments to support the environment and diversity, equity and inclusion and actually follow through on their commitments.
They want to see actions not just words. They want to see impact and results as well. This is all leading to a demand for more transparency and much more active scrutiny by all stakeholder groups.
This means a number of things. It means that organizations will need to celebrate their achievements more publicly as well as admit their mistakes or where progress is not being achieved the way they hoped and WHAT they are doing about it.
It also means organizations will need to take a look at their operating models, KPIs, and organizational structure to ensure they are clear about what their expectations and what is being measured and enabling company-wide accountability.
It is about living the purpose and being accountable at all levels of the organization both internally and externally.
Leaders will need to rethink what accountability means as they adjust to new forms of remote and hybrid working and respond to the demands of leading more agile, fluid teams. Think enterprise rather than vertical. Think responsibility to the business, not the silo.
Employees will be given more opportunities to make their own decisions and find their best approach. Devolving accountability further down the organization will only work if individuals and teams have a clear shared purpose and understand how their decisions contribute to overall success.
It’s important that everyone in your organization feels empowered to make decisions without always passing up the chain of command. It’s only possible, however, if you make your purpose and values crystal clear.
If people understand what your organization is trying to achieve, and how they are accountable for it, they will know what to do in most situations without having to be told.
Two-way communication is critical for creating accountability, not just with customers and wider society, but with your workforce as well.
Not only do you need to make sure all your decisions and action plans are clearly understood—you also need to get out there among employees, providing them with an open channel for feedback and using their input to course-correct where needed.
The best leaders don’t just take accountability for their own actions. They make others accountable for their actions as well. Teamwork and trust are critical here.
Simple gestures, such as saying “We” rather than “I”, can help team members feel more responsible and valued. In the American Psychological Association’s 2016 Work and Well-Being Survey, 95% of respondents who said they felt valued by their employer also said they felt motivated to do their best.
It is critical, however, that words are supported by action and that those actions are actively communicated internally and often externally as well.
Meetings are a tool for enabling higher productivity, honest communication, stronger team-building and better results.
To show you understand and respect this, make sure every meeting has a clear purpose, starts and finishes on time, and is followed up by an email summarizing work assignments and deadlines.
Accountability must not be something that only happens after the fact. Make sure there is constructive feedback and dialogue at all stages and levels—not just when things go wrong.
Those that are accountable are trusted to deliver, whether they are employees, leaders or organizations. By emphasizing your commitment to what you have pledged to do, you can strengthen bonds with teams, customers, and stakeholders.
Accountability reduces the tendency towards ineffective behavior—and the time and effort you have to spend policing it. Organizations that have a strong culture of accountability send a clear message that they are serious about excellent work.
When people are made accountable, they feel like valued and important members of the organization. They have a sense of ownership that drives them to do higher-quality work.
Some people mistake accountability for control. In reality, it’s about giving people the freedom and confidence to make their own decisions, supported by constructive feedback from their managers and teams.