In Part 1 of our series on Understanding Accountability, we learned what accountability is and how it differs from responsibility. Too often, accountability in organizations isn’t well understood and it isn’t well implemented. In Part 2, we’ll look at why accountability matters, and why it’s important for organizational success.
To recap from Part 1, accountability in organizations is an obligation – something for which one can be held to account. When you are accountable, you are expected to answer for not only the results you achieve, but also the actions you take. Accountability is the clear diver of effectiveness in organizations. Organizations that have managers who are clearer about their accountability are more effective. The correlation is extremely high.
Here is why accountability matters and how clear accountability for managerial leadership can drive success.
Why Accountability In Organizations Matters
There’s plenty of research to support the idea that managerial effectiveness matters in organizations. A recent Gallup study tells us that ineffectively managed work groups are fifty percent less productive and 44 percent less profitable than those who are managed effectively. Another study found that 70 percent of employees leave a job for reasons directly controllable by their managers (Branham, Leigh. The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late).
We conducted our own research with the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa, and we found that managers only spend 55 percent of their time on valued added work. That means a whopping 45 percent of time is spent on work that is not value added. Are CEO’s asking their managers to come to work half way through the day or half way through the work week? Of course not! Yet we allow this to take place in organizations. Why?
With these statistics in mind, clearly, managers are not able to focus on value added work—or work that only they, in their position, with their capability, can do. So what is value-added work? Basically, there are three types of managerial work:
- Day-to-day, continuous improvement work
- Projects or change initiatives
- Managerial leadership
It is the first two types of work are often considered urgent. Managers must handle day-to-day workflow and they’re often given project assignments which come with a deadline. So where will the focus be, especially since managers are spending only about half their time on their value-added work? It is the third type of work, managerial leadership, which inevitably suffers. It is simply too easy to cancel the team meeting or reschedule that performance feedback session, or cancel the weekly one-on-one.
Yet it is exactly this work, the managerial leadership work that managers must be accountable for carrying out that ensures organizational success. This is the work that pulls everyone together to achieve strategy, and it is work that only managers can do
Managerial Leadership Drives Business Success
In a 1994 Harvard Business Review piece on his extensive research, James Heskitt put forth the idea that high employee satisfaction drives customer satisfaction, which drives revenue and profit. In other words, if you have more satisfied employees, you create more satisfied customers and that creates more profit for you.
While this is true, what has been lost over the years is that Heskett was quite clear that it’s managerial leadership that drives all of these things. Yet over the past few years, the focus has been on employee satisfaction. How do we make the environment and the job more satisfying so employees can be more engaged? As a result, less attention is paid to the driver of engagement: managerial leadership. We are missing the big picture, and this is to the detriment of organizations’ from an accountability and managerial leadership standpoint.
The Big Picture
While there is no magic pill for driving organizational success, returning the focus back to accountability as a concept is a good starting point. The question is, how do we make sure people understand what they are accountable for and that they will be called to task for it? Second, how do we ensure managers are carrying out their accountability for their managerial leadership work?
There are many formulas, yet this is how work gets done and how we can help people focus on doing the right work. As we’ve seen from the research and data on managerial leadership, ensuring accountability in organizations and getting those pieces in place is paramount.
See the Video version of this article on our YouTube Channel
Why does accountability matter?
Accountability matters in organizations. Organizations with better accountability are more effective. Mangers who are held accountable for their managerial leadership duties can drive higher results.
This video is Part 2 in the Effective ManagersTM Understanding Accountability