For many, the word ‘accountable’ is a bit of a negative. When something goes wrong, employers and employees assume that someone must be accountable—i.e., to blame. This sets the understanding that when one is accountable, it is because they are the reason for mistakes or that they have made an error and must accept blame and punishment. With this mindset, employees are positioned to do good work, but only for the sake of not being reprimanded or criticized when something goes wrong.
A Harvard Business Review study shows that almost 50 percent of managers are terrible at accountability. When an employer looks for problems to only point out errors, employees become demoralized, unmotivated, and do what they can to remain unaccountable to mistakes. What’s worse, employers who play the blame game without holding themselves accountable, set the example that they can make mistakes while dodging responsibility and further, teaches employees it is okay to do the same.
You can imagine what this mindset can do to a company’s culture. Now, imagine a company culture where the word ‘accountable’ was energizing and motivating. Imagine employers and employees working together to not only avoid mistakes but to learn from each other and make positive changes that improve productivity and solve problems constructively.
It is not enough to say that the company’s leadership and employees all act with integrity or accountability. It is something that must be built into the company culture. Everyone must know and understand the importance of taking ownership of their job role and trusting that their coworkers are doing their work and the highest degree of quality. Employees and company leaders alike must be ready to assume responsibility for when things fall through or go undone.
Company leaders set an example for the employees within the company. Employees do as their leaders do. Here are some ways you can set the standard for accountability in the workplace and begin practicing it as part of everyday business operations.
Employees need guidance and assistance when working on projects and assignments. Help them to know that you are available to them by implementing an open-door policy and encouraging employees to come to you when they run into issues. When addressing problems, make sure employees know that you understand and are willing to help them in every possible. Be accountable and encourage accountability by asking questions and helping them to discover the root of the issues. Be there to provide feedback and follow up as the employee continues to work on the issue and completes the project.
Do the things you say you are going to do. Take ownership of the things that do not go right. And always follow up with company leaders and employees to discuss improvements or changes to a project. The key to accountability is being so consistent in your actions that you are predictable. People should know that you are there and ready to be part of the solution rather than expecting you to shirk responsibility or blame others for mistakes. Being consistent in how you address situations teaches employees to mirror your actions and be accountable unto themselves.
Practice Clear Communication
Never assume that employees or other members of the leadership team know exactly what to do. Always be clear in communicating your expectations of the work that employees should do. Employees must know what steps they need to take to achieve successful completion of a project or assignment. Be sure to provide them with the key metrics and data required to track success. If you see numbers begin to drop, communicate with the team as to why it may be happening and work together to find a solution. Be available to take questions from employees and answer them clearly so that they may begin to be accountable for their work.
Practice Mutual Accountability
If employees are encouraged to collaborate and communicate with each other already, start that initiative now. When people talk to each other and share ideas, it’s much easier to track progress and follow through on commitments. Mutual accountability means holding each other accountable for the work that contributes to the overall project. It means breaking down responsibilities and ensuring that each person on the team knows their role and what they are expected to do. As long as each person knows and understands the initiatives, mutual accountability starts to occur naturally.
Getting the job done means trusting that everyone around you is doing their part to get the job done as well. Once everyone understands the expectations and how results are determined, they will empower themselves to get things done. As company leaders continue to practice reliability, consistency, and clear communication, employees will see that they have adequate resources and can trust company leaders to do the right thing. The idea of circumventing processes, or playing the blame game won’t ever cross their minds as long as accountability is something practiced at every level, every day.