Organizational Culture & Values

Take 7 steps to increased accountability

Measure the accountability in your company

How is the level of accountability in your organization? Not sure how to measure it? Here’s how to figure out where you currently stand, and the seven-step formula to create accountability and achieve extraordinary results in any organization.

Start by listening to the conversation going on in meetings. Is conversation directed toward commitment? Are individuals talking about what is important and what will and won’t get done? Are they making requests of one another and asking for commitments? Or do conversations stray to generalities, vagueness, rationalization, and missed expectations?

Is the focus on activity or result?

Do you have people who constantly talk about how hard they work, how many hours they put in, how little vacation they take (yet you wonder what they actually produce)? If so, most often these people are focused on activities instead of results.

When team members hold themselves accountable, you hear responsibility in their conversations. They ask one another for help in order to get on track. There are no victims, excuses, or concerns over a lack of knowledge. Instead they are searching for the knowledge and support they need from everyone around the table to reach the company’s goals.

To increase accountability and get the results you need, first define your role as leader. Your role should be to ensure every member of the team wins, and winning is defined as meeting the organization’s top objectives. I only wish someone would have explained this to me earlier in my career.

Seven-step formula

Here is the seven-step formula to create accountability and achieve extraordinary results in any organization:

Step 1: Establish the organization’s top three objectives.

This means the significant few, not the important many. Once identified, objectives must be clear, concise, measurable and obtainable. Notice I didn’t say easy!

When everyone is focused on achieving the organization’s top objectives, every employee should be able to answer yes to the question: Did my actions today move the company closer to achieving our most critical business goals?

Step 2: Assign each team member his or her respective objectives.

Remember, when combined they must allow the organization to achieve its top objectives. In other words, the sum of the parts must be equal to or greater than the whole.

Step 3: Ask each team member what he or she needs to win.

To help people win, leaders must remove the roadblocks that stand in the way. Do this by having each team member identify a maximum of three things they need to accomplish each objective. Have them put it in writing. This approach removes excuses, reduces rework, and is a great way to build relationships. It’s also a great way to develop future leaders by increasing responsibility and encouraging decision making and creativity.

Step 4: Agree on what the leader will do to help.

Meet individually with each team member to clarify the roadblocks and agree on what’s needed to win and who will be responsible for making it happen. In all likelihood, the leader will assume some responsibility. Why? Because you’re responsible to people, not for them. Being responsible to people means helping them get what they need to win.

Step 5: Follow up.

Each direct report should schedule a 30-minute monthly update using a standard color-coded results report. Results at or above the plan are in green and any area behind plan is in red. Focus the conversation on what was done to achieve green and if the results will remain green for the remainder of the year. When discussing red results, focus on what will be done to achieve green status, when it will be achieved and any help that’s needed.

Step 6: Share lessons learned.

Hold quarterly meetings with all direct reports present to discuss lessons learned, identify critical roadblocks and make specific offers to help any team member behind plan. Remember, the leader wins when everyone on the team wins.

Step 7: Reward results.

When objectives are achieved, ensure that those who achieve the most get rewarded the most. Everyone should be aware that awards are proportionate to the achievement. Ensure that people at the bottom are either improving their performance or being moved out. No one with poor performance gets to remain on the bottom for more than a year without action being taken.

Remember, every step of the way, effective communication drives results. This means being direct and forthright with people in every conversation, letting them know where they stand, what’s needed from them, and when it is needed. Often good leaders can become great leaders by reshaping the way they talk.

Here’s how it works. When you make a request of someone, take a little extra time to explain why you are making it. Put it in context and explain why it’s important to the goals of the business. Then the person can provide a more robust solution because she understands the purpose of the task and how the information will be used.

By holding others accountable, you are teaching them to accept responsibility. Remember, making and meeting commitments is one of the best ways to build trust. So treat commitments as promises and watch how results improve.

10 actions to take now

  1. Write down and quantify your top three objectives. How do you know you are achieving them?
  2. Send a memo to five members of your top management team. Ask them to send you their top three objectives and the ways they know the organization is achieving them.
  3. Send a similar memo to five of your best middle managers. Also ask them to send you their top three objectives and the ways they know the organization is achieving them.
  4. Compare and contrast the responses you get from top executives and middle managers. What have you learned? What will you do to increase alignment and teamwork resulting from everyone knowing and delivering against the top three objectives?
  5. Write down the three most important ways for you to improve your leadership abilities along with key milestones and dates for achieving them.
  6. Decide on the three most important ways for your managers to improve their leadership abilities. How and when will you communicate this to each member on your team?
  7. Establish how your company or organization communicate better with its employees and with its stakeholders?
  8. Who needs to delegate better? How can you get him or her to do that?
  9. Do you have the right people in the right positions? If not, what actions are you prepared to take to accomplish this?
  10. Does the company or organization make and meet commitments without having to follow up? If not, what actions will you take to make this a reality?

Act on these directions, and invest the responsibility in your team. Look for extraordinary results to follow.

Read more on this topic:

How a leader models accountability.

Working with integrity

Cascading accountability throughout the organization

Living your core values: Winning through accountability

Category: Organizational Culture & Values

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About the Author: Bob Prosen

Bob is a leadership consultant and Vistage speaker. Bob provides Vistage Companies, Corporate America and Associations with practical step-by-step tools and techniques that rapidly increase profit and build leadership capacity within the org…

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