Although the word accountability is frequently heard, it’s poorly understood and all too rarely effected.

“We need more accountability!”

“My team just isn’t accountable!”

“How can I create a culture of accountability?”

I hear comments like this almost daily from business leaders in all industries, large and small. Unfortunately, accountability is one of those “motherhood and apple pie” concepts we all heartily endorse, but don’t really know how to put into practice.

When I reflect on the people I admire in the accountability category, they have 3

common behaviors;

  1. They understand the scope of a project or assignment before saying YES. Accountable people do this because they take commitments very seriously and want to make sure they and their team succeed.
  2. They know the importance of saying NO when necessary. People who can say no are never chronically overextended, nor do they regularly fail to meet commitments.
  3. They pull out all the stops to deliver, including asking team mates for help if necessary.

Actions speak louder than words. You know who to trust to deliver on an important priority – those people who predictably deliver. Accountable people take personal pride in doing what they say they will do.

So how can you be more accountable, or help others to be more accountable?

  • Scope: Establish a crystal clear definition of the scope of the commitment. Vagueness leads to poor results, so nail down the exact definition of success.
  • Energy: Do not say YES unless you know the time, resources & energy exist to deliver. It’s perfectly okay to negotiate the scope and deadline to make it fit. Otherwise say NO because team success and your reputation are at stake.
  • Plan: Have a plan of action upon which to organize execution and communicate delegated tasks.
  • Track: Keep track of the progress visibly – a scoreboard, or at a minimum, weekly traffic light updates (Green, Yellow, Red) to the team.
  • Trust: Trust enough in your team mates to ask for help if it does go off the rails (Yellow or Red status). Success and team results are more important than a bruised ego.
  • Report: Allow your team mates to hold you accountable. Do not get defensive when asked for progress reports – you have an obligation to report progress as that is the basis for the word accountable.

If you follow this formula personally, and use it to coach others, your team will be well on the way to establishing a culture of accountability. And consistent accountability is one of the essential disciplines for delivering extraordinary results.

Article by John Leduc