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Three Steps to Build a Culture of Accountability

Leaders, managers, and business owners know that creating a culture of accountability is vital for the success of their company. Accountability breeds responsibility which in turn creates urgency. While there are many ways to create an environment where people feel accountable, one thing is sure: it takes time. To build a culture of accountability, start at the top and work your way through the organization. Leaders set the best examples of accountability, and the culture will follow.

Setting Clear Expectations for a Culture of Accountability

The first area for leaders to focus on is setting clear expectations. This begins with the CEO and trickles down through every level of management, taking into account how each person’s role impacts other roles.

Clear goals help your team members align with the vision of the business. This happens when they know their personal, professional development goals and how well they play into accomplishing strategic objectives. You, as the leader, should work with your teams to ensure they make these connections.

Here is where goals and objectives come into play.

I recommend that all my clients create annual goals at the department level and measure progress on scorecards monthly. Each department can translate these goals into performance expectations for team members. This ensures they are continually moving in the direction of their plan.  These reviews also provide an excellent way for leaders and managers to evaluate their team members.

Provide Timely and Regular Feedback

Accountability is an essential part of organizational culture. The effective leader sees accountability not as a consequence but as the opportunity for improvement, understanding that feedback–positive and negative–is at its core. They are committed to providing input for it to be incorporated into some more extensive system of accountability, so they look outwards with the desire to improve themselves through how others see them.

Former GE CEO Jack Welch lays out a specific process to establish accountability in every business area. He would hold what he called “accountability sessions” where staff members presented their goals and results. Afterward, if any participants had not met expectations, leaders provided feedback so all could learn from the mistakes. I don’t recommend group sessions for this type of feedback, but delivering it is crucial and is for learning.

Finally, feedback can be positive or negative, but it should be constructive so that there will be a specific course of action after the fact: “What went well?” “How could this have been handled better?” etc. Remember, we are providing feedback for the betterment of the entire organization. This is a long-term investment in the future of your company!

Hold Regular 1:1 Meetings with Your Team.

The 1:1 meeting is the most crucial piece of the accountability process. I recommend holding these sessions weekly for two reasons. The first is for the team member to provide updates and identify areas where they need their boss’s help. The second is for the boss to give feedback and encouragement and identify areas where their team member may need help with planning or execution.

The goal for any team is to avoid surprises. These regular meetings ensure strong communication and a shared understanding of expectations.

In my experience, a culture of accountability is the number one factor that will create success in your company. The way to establish this is by setting clear expectations for all employees, providing timely feedback on their performance, and holding regular one-to-ones with each person you manage. This type of environment breeds responsibility, and it should be no surprise why these are three qualities every successful executive must have! If you want help creating an accountable atmosphere or coaching tips for becoming a confident leader, contact me about my Master Class “From Accidental Executive To Confident Leader” today!