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How to Ensure Accountability in the workplace

We normally ask “who is responsible for this?” only when things go wrong; when things go wrong most of us are quick to point fingers at others or blame others or pass on the buck – rather than take responsibility for action or inaction. Everyone is aware of their responsibilities and what they are accountable for; it becomes even more obvious when people engage in excuses, justifications, rationalizations and apologies. It is evident that while some are accountable by nature, others have to be made accountable. Therefore, it is important for leaders to focus on fostering a culture of accountability in their organization.

Accountability is about an individual’s personal choice, an attitude – of “See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It” – that demonstrates the commitment and ownership necessary for achieving desired results. Accountability includes both action and inaction.  Can you imagine what can be accomplished when an organization fosters a culture of accountability? In every peak-performing organization, every leader and every employee feels ownership for results they produce and hold one another accountable for their commitment, that’s why great organizations foster a culture of accountability.

Some leaders relate accountability to blame and punishment – find the guilty party and sanction them. A culture of accountability reinforces the attitude- “What else can I do to achieve the results I desire?” and promotes a way of life that cherishes way of life – “What more can I do, walk the extra mile to achieve desired results.” It promotes, acknowledges, appreciates, and rewards high level of ownership and commitment that includes making, keeping and fulfilling personal commitments. From the leadership point of view, accountability is about empowering people, delegating responsibility, planned follow-up, giving constructive feedback, and ensuring desirable outcomes.

A leader must be very clear about one thing – if you demand accountability then the same will also expected from you more than what is demanded. It is hard to expect others to keep their promise while you don’t keep your own. Accountability is not a one-way traffic rather an effective tool that ensures upward spiral – transformational process. If you expect people to be accountable in your organization, people also expect the leadership to be accountable.

Clarify expectations clearly: Communicate expected outcomes clearly, ensure everyone has the same picture of the end in mind, be specific and clear regarding how everyone will know the end result is achieved, let there be no ambiguity about it. Ensure there is no unrealistic expectation. Encourage and foster Commitment & ownership to the goals agreed; it is not possible to hold one accountable to which they have neither agreed nor have sense of ownership.

Planned Follow-up: Set intermediate goals that subsequently leads to the end, establish how the monitoring and evaluating the progress of assignment or activities will be carried out. Set clear time frame and reporting mechanism to track progress. It does happen that when there is a busy schedule most people forget their commitments; sometimes it takes a proactive leader to remind them and channelize them towards their commitment.

Give constructive Feedback: When it is necessary don’t hesitate to let them know hard facts. When need arises, confront employees of their inefficiencies – show the real picture, truth telling works. Offer your help to get the project accomplished. Let him know you’re there to help if he needs it (even      though he won’t want it) and give your inputs that can bring about the needed improvement. You can mentor and coach him through the process without them even knowing it.

Focus on Result: Draw attention to the end that everyone is working towards. Create a stimulating and motivating environment that enables people to not only bring out the best in one’s self but also of one another. Effective leaders operate on the premise that their people must focus on achieving results. They lead people beyond the boundaries of their jobs and inspire them to pursue results by creating an environment that motivates them to ask, “What else can I do?” over and over again until the results are achieved.

Precautions: Leadership is about building trust; at times some actions can create doubt than enhance the trust. Don’t call unannounced at random times, it may be seen as checking up & create mistrust. Make sure you always acknowledge good performance and useful contributions made.

Sudhakar I. Prabu brings rich experience of career spanning over 20 plus years which includes leadership role in three start-ups. He has successfully planned and executed enterprise-wide management strategies in performance improvement, leadership development, learning and development, and change management, as well as facilitated leadership excellence workshops for Business Managers, Functional Managers, and Middle level managers. He can be contacted at sudhakar(at)tpmc.in

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