Accountability represents all the obligations we have. This includes at our work, in our regular lives, in the community, and perhaps even in a volunteer role. Accountability is something that cannot be discarded, nor disregarded. Accountability is something that has to be respected and nurtured.
With that in mind, we wanted to talk more about accountability and how you can create a culture of accountability at your organization.
The Importance of Having a Culture of Accountability at Work
Accountability in organizations is different from accountability in Society. This is because inside an organization people can be held accountable for the results they produce by a specified other individual – the manager. Manager is a specific term in organizations. The term “manager” refers to anyone in the organization accountable for a team and the output of that team.
A culture of accountability can create positivity, engagement, and productivity among the workforce. Therefore, it’s an important tool at a manager’s disposal.
From top to bottom, every individual your organization must be accountable for your business to succeed. Managers must be accountable for the most important work they have to do that keeps the company afloat and in a state of continuous improvement.
You can see how this matters from studies that show that ineffectively managed groups tend to be as much as 50% less productive and 44% less profitable. This is a staggering difference that can be fixed only by having effective managers who are accountable for the most important work they do.
This accountability for doing managerial work starts at the top of the organization. Yes, the head of the organization has managerial leadership work they must do. Part of the delegation of the owner to their team members is that they must also do their managerial leadership work. In this way accountability for actually managing cascades through subordinates and the rest of the workforce. This is the first step step in establishing the a culture of accountability. But how do you build it? From all of what we’ve said, it’s easy to recognize the importance of accountability, but it’s a whole different thing to integrate it into your daily operations.
It starts with the head of the organization, and the establishment of clear strategic goals.
How to Foster Accountability in an Organization
Start by defining clearly the key strategic goals of your organization. I always recommend three, but no more than four. The problem with these most strategic plans is that very people in the organization know them. Or even more importantly, know what this means to how they do their work on a daily basis. Large-scale studies have found that as much as 85% of the workforce has no clear understanding of the strategic goals in their companies.
This major issue stems from a lack of real accountability for results that are different. The problem is not that these companies don’t strive to build a culture of accountability. The problem is that managerial leadership work is not getting done, so the delegation of clear accountability for work outcomes is not taking place. I use the term managerial leadership, because anyone accountable for a team must both lead and manage.
All managers, from the Owner or CEO to each front line manager need to make sure their employees have the clarity they need to focus on doing the right work.
There is always more work to do than can be done in a day. That means that choices have to be made. It is only by having a well-aligned work force, with every leader of teams doing their managerial leadership work, that the right choices will be made.
A key element of managerial leadership is setting context for doing work. This is especially true for key strategic goals that must be understood in a way that is appropriate for the level of work to be done. This cannot be done from the top. Each manager needs to “translate” each strategic goal into meaningful terms.
Open communication is critical here. Focus on clarifying what each strategic goal means in terms of the work of your team. Then elaborate on that that means for each team member. If each of your teams members knows what they need to focus on to achieve the results you need for team success, they’ll know exactly what they need to do to help the you achieve them. If each team leader, starting with the owner, does this, the results will be amazing.
But how do you get your managers of teams to follow through? The head of the organization, each executive, each Director of a function, each manager of front line teams have managerial leadership work to do. It’s not enough to simply have clearly defined key results they need to push towards. You also need to give them clear roles to do. Managers are accountable for the work they give to their subordinates, and without clear instructions, you cannot hope to achieve great results, nor can you hope your subordinates to do the same.
This approach for delegating accountability also results in higher employee engagement. That’s because when everyone in the organization understands where they can add value, and how they can use their full capabilities most effectively, they will know they genuinely contribute to something meaningful at work. It stands to reason because menial work that doesn’t seem to provide any tangible results for the company is meaningless. If your subordinates have explicit instructions on what to do, and how that work brings the organization closer to achieving its key results, then they become highly productive members of the company.
Improve Accountability Through Proper Feedback Loops
Have set the context and delegated clear objectives, proper feedback loops are also critical for the success of any organization as well. There are four feedback loops that each manager must establish and use well:
- Manager-subordinate feedback loops
- Manager-team feedback loops
- Manager-manager feedback loops
- Manager-community feedback loops
All of these feedback loops enable every member of the organization to hear other people’s perspectives and to provide their own.
By doing this, you ensure that everyone’s voice in the company is heard. That way, everyone feels further appreciated and essential to the company, which fosters more engagement. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved and requires very little work to be achieved.
Furthermore, through feedback loops, managers and leaders can get vital information from all corners of the company that will enable them to find roadblocks that are hindering the company’s growth. By seeing all the problems, you can have an easier time finding ways to fix them.
As an added bonus, your team members will become more proactive in their work and fix problems that arise without going to management every time. They understand what they are accountability and will be willing to use their authority to get things done within the context you have set. This will increase the effectiveness of the entire organization, not just your team’s.
By establishing clear goals, ensuring clear delegation of accountability through managerial leadership at all levels, you’ll be well on your way to achieving a general culture of accountability in your organization.
A great way to start is to get a third-party, objective snapshot of the current state in your organization. The Resilient Organization Program has been designed to help head’s of organizations understand what is happening in their organizations. This provides the baseline to learn how to improve managerial leadership and drive better performance.
It can help you find the issues your company has and get to their root causes. It can also help you learn how to successfully implement change projects.
The program offers this and a lot more. You can book a 45-minute long consultation with Dwight at a discounted rate if you would like to begin implementing culture of accountability.