Accountability is truly essential for any successful organization.
When team members take ownership of their projects and accept responsibility for outcomes, the entire company benefits. In order to foster a culture of accountability, leaders must step up to the plate. Accountable leaders don’t necessarily have to come from the very top. Anybody, at any level can lead through accountability.
The four keys of accountability
1. Clear expectations: The request and the response must be detailed and clear.
2. Specific date and time: The individual commits to delivering something by a specific day and specific time.
4: Sharing: Letting others know who is responsible for a task.
Each of these four keys strengthens the others. If a single piece is missing, an interaction is not an accountable one.
Specificity of date and time
Typically, specificity of delivery is the most often-overlooked piece of being accountable. An individual might say: “I will get that to you by the end of the week.” Unfortunately, this is not specific enough to qualify as an accountable response. A Type A manager may assume that end of the week means Friday morning at 8 a.m. Someone on the East Coast may assume end of the week is 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, but someone on the West Coast would be three hours behind.
When coaching someone toward an accountable interaction, it is important to draw out an exact date and exact time, including time zone. This keeps everyone with the same expectation. It also allows team members and managers to check in on progress at appropriate intervals.
Vague language breeds frustration
Vague words like “best” and “worst” do not quantify a task or interaction. Best and worst mean different things to different people and lack specificity. To lead through accountability, stop the conversation when you hear terms like this, and ask for some clarification. The goal is to get the individual to paint a clear picture of their desired outcome.
“We” is another word to look out for. Accountability is about the individual, not the group. Someone owns a task; they are responsible for its completion. To say, “our team will handle it,” isn’t clear enough. Instead, you shoul say, “I will handle this specific portion of the project.”
Getting an accountable response
When it comes to accountable interactions, there are only four responses that are truly accountable, according to the research of Fernando Flores. These are:
3. Re-negotiation: This is a “Yes, if,” or a “No unless” response. The answer may be “Yes, I will complete this report by Friday at noon, Eastern Time, if you complete the data entry by Wednesday at 11 a.m., Eastern Time.” Or the answer, “No unless you complete the data entry by Wednesday at 11 a.m. Eastern Time.”
4. A promise to promise: This is a commitment to do something by a specific time, but not a commitment to the request. For example, “I will let you know by Friday at 10 a.m. Eastern Time whether or not I am able to join your lunch meeting.”
All of these responses give the participants clarity and leaves no room for misinterpretation.
Accountability is contagious
Accountability is a skill that can be coached to many employees; it is a trait that is truly contagious. Accountable people lead by example. When they take steps to lead their colleagues towards more accountable interactions, ownership and responsibility will catch on like crazy. And the best part? Anyone, at any level of the company, can step up to be a accountable leader.
If you’re looking to improve accountability for your business, call Williams and Kunkel, CPA, LLP CPAs in Flower Mound at 972-446-1040 to get expert leadership advice.
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