Stuart Colligon, director at Auxesia, looks at what it really means to be accountable and how creating a culture of accountability within your business can help it to thrive.
Bestselling Author and motivational speaker Steve Maraboli once said “the right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.” However, human beings, like water, have a habit of leaning towards the path of least resistance.
This can sometimes be considered a smart strategy, but adopting this as a business mindset is a common mistake that inevitably leads to stagnation, or even failure.
Do you know someone in your industry who seems naturally more driven than others, who gives the impression of always being that little bit more successful, and who, despite these enviable attributes, appears less stressed? It is highly likely that this person has, knowingly or otherwise, taken on the Accountability Challenge.
Their ability to communicate effectively is second-to-none, their leadership skills are enviable and they’ve learned the art of delegation. But haven’t we all? What sets them apart is that they have also understood and focused on their own accountability. This acts as a catalyst for all those other skills and produces a polished professional much closer to the ‘finished article’.
What is ‘accountability’?
A common misconception of accountability, that often results in failure to address the issue, is that it’s the same as responsibility. It is not. The main difference is that responsibility can be shared while accountability cannot. Being accountable not only means being responsible for something but, ultimately, being answerable for your actions and inactions.
For a business to thrive it requires a culture of accountability. Crucially, this is not the same as a blame culture, which is highly toxic and destructive. Accountability is more akin to a culture of maturity and ultra-professionalism. Accountability builds trust, inspires confidence and improves performance.
The Seven Truths
There are seven uncomfortable yet vital truths when it comes to accountability.
1. It’s all about you
Successfully engendering a culture of accountability in your organisation can have a transformative effect but requires widespread ‘buy in’. This has to start with the executive(s) leading by example. Own projects and issues. Meet your commitments every time. Obvious and easy to say; tough to deliver on.
2. It’s really ALL about you
As the leader of a team, department or business - you are accountable. You're accountable for any failures, as well as any successes that your organisation may have. If you try to ‘fudge’ it, pull rank, or play the ‘I’m so very busy’ card it will have a negative impact. Whatever you may tell yourself, colleagues will see through this and it will affect how they work.
3. It’s ALWAYS about you
Accountability is not an occasional choice. People who don't want to be accountable, or be held to account, are subliminally on the lookout for ways to get out of it. Chinks in your accountability armour will give other staff members what they need to choose when they accept accountability. You need to lead by example and be fully accountable at all times.
4. Be consistent
Your chosen level of accountability and associated expectations either apply equally to everyone, or not at all. Cherry-picked accountability simply won’t work.
5. Own it
Accountability cannot be delegated. The best way to get people to accept accountability is to set them up to be successful. When a person has accepted that they have the necessary resources to deliver, they become equipped to accept accountability.
6. It matters. SO much
When you see people ‘spectating’ a project rather than participating, or descending into ‘I told you so’, accountability needs boosting. Or perhaps it was never present in the first place. Conversely, teams that are successful are full of people that go into ‘solution mode’ when pressure is applied.
7. It’s still about you
Accountability isn’t an instruction. Open communication channels must be established so your team understands that they will be held accountable for the project and are provided with any necessary support to facilitate them. This also creates a platform to reinforce the positives created by an accountable culture and create the virtuous circle that will transform your business.
All of these vital truths cover you being accountable to your bosses, and your team being accountable to you. But a magic ingredient is still needed to make this whole thing tick – self accountability.
Challenge yourself and be honest. Set up a system where you are challenged in your views and on how accountable you really are. This can be achieved through internal forums, the use of an executive coach, consultant or even the use of family and friends as a sounding board. Don’t assume you can do it yourself, very few people can.
Instinctively, we feel accountable to those above us in a hierarchy, and that is important. However, true accountability is to everyone, including those lower in the structure and to customers. This is best served by ensuring that you are fully accountable for performance and setting aside the ‘stripes on your shoulder’.
True accountability is difficult to master, and it can take time to build a culture of accountability within your organisation. But there’s no doubt that investing time and effort into this way of working and being accountable for every decision you make and action you take, will pay dividends in the long-term – helping you and your business to thrive.
Auxesia’s panel of highly qualified experts can help companies at all stages of development, to find those incremental changes in performance which ultimately add up to a profound improvement in success.
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