Accountability: Do You Cringe When You Hear the Word?
Do you hear the word accountability and just cringe? Does it make you think of keeping score? Well, for many that is exactly what happens. They cringe, they avoid, they walk away. But really, we all want people that are accountable in our lives and in our businesses.
What does it mean? Accountability is taking responsibility for what you say you are going to do. It means following through. But first there are some things that have to happen in order for accountability to be all that it is cracked up to be. First, there have to be clear goals and expectations. When you have a clearly stated, measurable goal that you as the person responsible understands, then you take that goal on and take responsibility for it. When goals are unclear or wishy, washy it is impossible to be responsible for the goal but it is not trackable or measurable. For instance, if you have a business goal of improving the workplace for staff it is a totally subjective and wide open goal. It is open for interpretation and can look like many different things. What it means to you can be totally different from what it means for your peers or your boss or the owner of the company. Before you take one more step into action, you need clarity. A more clearly stated goal that you could actually implement might be: to improve the workplace by providing consistent, daily duty free lunch breaks. Now you can create a strategy for implementing this. You know that you have to create a schedule, figure out how to free people up and then you can implement. But the goal could also mean, improve the workplace by creating an action plan for each staff member with measurable goals, clearly outlined actions and weekly review meetings. This too, is measurable and actionable. But there might still be questions that you have as you start to implement.
That is part of your accountability responsibility: gaining clarity at the beginning of implementation and throughout. When a new question comes up, ask. Ask for clarity. A workplace that encourages accountability and expects it is one that also knows that there must be room for ongoing communication about goals and responsibilities. Staff must know from leaders that they are allowed and expected to ask for further clarification and that it in no way means that they are not being responsible or accountable. Actually, it means just the opposite. That they are!
Leaders must lead the way to accountability and responsibly by themselves showing that they are open to questions, open to providing answers and they too, at times, will need to ask for clarification or more information in order to be accountable themselves.
Accountability becomes a cultural norm within the workplace when individuals are given the space to take on responsibility and to expect clear communications about each task.