Picture a world where business goals are murky and employees have little-to-no clarity on the key results they’re accountable for. The confusion results in delays and under-performance. Dissatisfaction runs rampant and stagnation persists.
This is the world many organizations operate in – the “accountability epidemic.”
I hope you’re not envisioning your organization, but there’s a good chance you are. The numbers are stacked against you. Research by Vitalsmarts—recently discussed by the Harvard Business Review—found that only 15% of organizations feel that “results are clearly defined in a way employees at all levels can engage.” Employees have a hard time addressing accountability issues with their colleagues when they come up, too. The same Vitalsmarts research found that 69% of avoided confrontations have to do with accountability.
November was a time for gratitude. The practices I wrote about in my last article are ones that, if made routine, will encourage a rewarding company culture. The next step, now that we’re staring down 2020, is to think about the measurable results you want to see in the new year. December is the perfect time to evaluate progress, specifically where you met or fell short of goals.
Evaluating The Impact Of Accountability
Evaluating your progress means identifying and articulating the factor(s) feeding into each success and shortcoming.
Looking at another Vitalsmarts study, 93% of business owners and employees surveyed said they have at least one coworker who “doesn’t do his or her fair share,” and one out of four reported putting in 4-6 hours of additional work a week to make up for those coworkers.
Can you imagine any number of your employees putting in extra hours due to lack of accountability elsewhere? Accountability is one of the biggest reasons a team (or an individual teammate) doesn’t follow through on what they say they’ll do. Shoring up for the coming year on accountability and getting at the root of why a goal wasn’t met will help you build team buy-in and engagement.
Want to know “how?”
That’s what I’m here for. Let’s begin.
What Is The Accountability Gap?
Business owners and organizational leaders know that you can’t micromanage your way to accountability. Instead, the idea of the “accountability gap” gets into the very real need for team alignment with your company’s vision, mission and core values. When team members care about a vision and see themselves as part of it, accountability is the natural response.
Leadership is so much more than managing, and you know that. Though, while the idea of creating accountability through organizational alignment sounds great, actually doing it is another thing.
I’ve worked with many clients on this very challenge, and the system I’m about to explain is one that has made a real difference for them. I know you’ll find it valuable, too. It’s an outline to create accountability through real employee buy-in, thereby setting you up for success on individual, team and organizational levels.
Accountability starts with you. To model the behaviors you want to see on all levels, you have to walk the talk—and your team has to see it. By following the “three Cs” I outline below, your team will see it, feel it, and be better equipped to follow it.
1 – Care
At its core, accountability comes down to what you (and the team) care about. This drills right down to that engagement I spoke to above. Whether overtly or subconsciously, if your team doesn’t see the deeper value of something assigned to them (as it relates to something they care about), it gets put off.
What do you care about?
It seems like a simple question, yet it’s hardly ever asked. Ask yourself that question, engage with it and use these last few weeks of 2019 to integrate it into your day-to-day. What you care about is ultimately what brings you meaning, value and satisfaction.
What you care about also shapes the energy you bring to work every day. And it’s no different for the members of your team. So open conversations with them about what they care about. And really listen.
When a team shares a purpose (their care), this serves as the “North Star” that will guide conversations, actions and ultimately accountability. I spoke about this in greater detail in a recent article for new managers.
2 – Commitment
Commitments are the promises you make to yourself and to others. They’re most powerful when connected to what you care about, because accountability is built around commitments that you and your team mutually trust.
Trust and commitment go hand-in-hand when building accountability. Your team needs to feel confident that you’ll fulfill what you say you will—and herein lies your biggest opportunity to model the behavior you want your team to repeat. Trust also feeds into transparency; where something changes and you can’t fulfill a commitment, you open a conversation about why and how to recover.
All actions are shaped by commitment. Without commitment, tasks and to-dos are either set aside or not done with full engagement.
The probability of meeting a goal when a teammate first hears an idea barely reaches 10%. When that teammate decides he or she will do it (making an internal, mental affirmation), that probability comes up to 40%. Once that teammate starts planning how he or she will do it, the probability of completion creeps up to 50%. And when a teammate commits to someone else that he or she will do it, probability comes up to 65%—a far throw from the original 10%.
When someone has a specific accountability appointment with a person he or she has committed to, the probability that the goal will be met increases to 95%. So how do you get to that 95%? The “care” factor I discuss above is what inspires this commitment, and the capacity (discussed below) is what assures it.
3 – Capacity
Without the capacity to fulfill commitments for the sake of what you care about, accountability withers and dies. Capacity in time and space must be available to actually get the work done.
Capacity and commitment are intertwined, because you can’t make a commitment without knowing if you have the capacity to fulfill. Part of that capacity is setting boundaries and sticking to them.
You are only human. There’s only so much you can take on. Saying “yes” to everything is a quick path to feeling completely overwhelmed.
Again, this comes back to modeling the behavior you want your team to repeat. Be honest with yourself and with others. Start by assessing what level of demand is coming across your desk compared with your realistic capacity.
This takes practice and courage, especially to speak up and exercise anything other than a “yes.” As a leader, this skill is crucial, because it’s also your responsibility to make promises on behalf of your team. Model the behavior you need from your team so you can keep a real pulse on their capacity, or else the promises you make on their behalf will quickly fall out of alignment.
Stepping back for a look at the bigger picture, “organizational capacity” is your business’s ability to manage resources to gain advantage over the competition in tandem with its ability to meet customer demand. By studying your own business’s capacity along with your own and your team’s, you will be able to make realistic commitments and achieve what you care most about.
Addressing accountability within this ecosystem of the “three Cs” is game changing. I’ve worked with many organizations to implement these principles, and at the precipice of 2020, your business could be next. Reach out today to get into position for a stellar 2020.