Accountability A Key Leader Success Strategy

Very often we hear of the need for accountability, but what does that mean? Accountability is defined as the quality or state of being responsible or accountable. When we hear this, we think that a task needs to be accomplished and someone is responsible for it. Why then is lack of accountability so often discussed as a problem in today’s workplace? People may know that something needs to be done, but somehow it falls through the cracks. The truth is accountability is a multifaceted issue that needs to be viewed from different perspectives.

For a person to be accountable, the leader has to set clear expectations so the desired outcome is clear. People need to know the time line and the importance of the project. Most importantly however is the person must understand the “why” you are asking them to do it and the importance of the task. The key is to tie it back to the mission of the organization or what is in it for the customer. What happens however when the expectations are not clear? Time is wasted on efforts that do not match the need, people become frustrated and customers are not served. For this reason, it is imperative that conversation takes place to ensure the desired outcome is clear.

Secondly, there needs to be a two-way communication process in place that enables people to ask questions to gain clarity as the project progresses. Also, what if the person has a great deal of responsibility with other projects? It is important that the priority of the project is discussed instead of just piling something else on their plate when no one has discussed the sense of urgency with them. So, you see there is no simple answer which is why things tend not to get done.

If the manager lets the person know they are open to ongoing dialogue, it helps the employee understand if they’re headed in the right direction. Instead of telling the person how to do it, empower them with the task. This is the case unless the person needs additional guidance as they have not done it before. Then be supportive, assisting in removing roadblocks and having some milestone checkpoints will also ensure that people are progressing as expected.

The employee also needs to take responsibility as well by showing a commitment to the project. If they take on a responsibility, it is then up to them to follow through. The person is more likely to complete the task when they understand why they are doing the project and how the goal will help move the organization forward. It is also up to them to communicate openly about progress, and barriers that appear. Timely communication allows issues to be resolved before big problems occur. In order to support the employee, let them know when you will be checking on their progress. The employee should feel comfortable to ask questions or for your support along the way as the need arises.

The key to a successful outcome is the relationship between the manager and employee. If it is based on trust, there will be fewer barriers to open and honest communication, and the project will be completed in less time at a lower cost. If the manager understands the importance of measuring progress and offering positive feedback, the employee will often be more open to objective, behavioral feedback. For feedback to be meaningful and effective in motivating employees it must be stated in a helpful manner. In the event the person does not choose to be accountable, they should understand the consequences of their choices prior to discipline. Then the manager can easily refer to the expectations and stated consequence that was discussed at the beginning of the project. The key is a trusting relationship between employees and managers as this will make things run smoother, with less problems and reduced stress for all involved.

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