There are two key dimensions to practicing accountability. The first is to hold yourself accountable; the second is to hold others accountable. Leaders who generate trust do both.
As the HR Director at The Neenan Company, I have seen first-hand what being accountable looks like. A couple of years ago Neenan realized structural deficiencies were present in one of our projects. Instead of calling in the lawyers and placing blame on others, leaders stepped up and made the changes necessary with no financial cost to our clients. These actions earned the company great respect within the industry and built significant trust with our clients.
Taking responsibility is being accountable.
In addition to holding yourself accountable, it’s important to hold others accountable. Strong performers want to be held responsible for outcomes. They thrive in an environment where they know that everyone is expected to step up and be responsible, and where they can trust that slacking won’t just slip by. In a recent Neenan company meeting, a Project Manager talked about how he and the team are producing a successful project after getting off to a rough start. When asked how he is getting everyone to meet their commitments, he replied with a smile, “I have been the asshole.” He is holding people accountable. Deadlines were set on actionable items based on clear requests. They checked their progress on a regular and frequent basis. I bet he was not mean about it, just relentless.
Holding people accountable works when expectations are clear. When everyone knows what they are accountable for and by when. Results must be agreed upon. Most people will be tough on themselves when they miss deadlines or make mistakes. They want their work to matter and be respected, so they are accountable for their results.
Can you see gaps in accountability in your work? If so, how can you change that to increase trust?