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Six strategies to create a culture of accountability
April 22, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments
This Monday Morning Wake-Up is for everyone – not just leaders. In its simplest form, accountability means taking ownership. You take ownership as a leader to grow your company, create opportunities for others, and ensure fiscal health. You take ownership of projects, situations, and outcomes. You take ownership in your behavior and the behavior of others. You take ownership when the wrong outcomes occur – even if not directly involved – because it happened on your watch. Accountability is about getting the right stuff done when it needs to get done. No blame. No excuses.
Take a moment to imagine what your company’s performance would be like if it was built on a culture of accountability. What would productivity look like? What would profitability look like? What would staff retention look like? Most important, what would client loyalty look like? Without a doubt, your company would be leaner, faster, and fiercely competitive. That’s the good news. The bad news is that too many companies give a lot of lip service to accountability but fall short of the level of commitment and execution needed to create a culture of ownership in their companies. As a result, creating distance between status quo and extraordinary performance is painfully and incrementally slow.
Here are six no-compromise strategies to create a culture of accountability in your company:
- Know what you’re getting into: As a leader, if you truly want a culture of accountability, you must understand that once you begin this shift, you are going to be the one under the microscope – not just your employees. If you’re one of those leaders that love to launch “this will fix my employees” initiatives, you’ve already failed. Why? You guessed it: accountability begins with the leader. If your pattern is to shift in and out of accountable behavior, you are going to need some no-compromise coaching to hold you accountable.
- Let go of the anchors: You cannot shift a company culture in a new direction if you’re dragging a lot of frustrations, issues, and toxic waste along. The only way to move forward is to let go of the anchors by getting them out in the open and addressing them. The problem is, too many leaders don’t want to deal with or even see the anchors that hold them back. So why stir up all of that stuff? It’s simple really: everyone already knows the anchors exist. Hoisting them up and confronting them in the open is essential to building trust. No one will support the shift to a culture of accountability if trust is compromised.
- Show and tell: Accountability means different things to different people. For example, for some it means showing up on time. For others it means it’s OK to show up late as long as they get their work done. A culture of accountability is built on a foundation of clarified expectations. Clarified expectations define the processes (systems) to achieve desired outcomes. People need to understand the rules of the game and what winning looks like. If not, don’t be surprised when your company starts taking on water because people were drilling holes below the waterline.
- Get rid of the elephants first: Every company has elephants lurking around that get in the way of progress. Things like double standards, attitude problems, indifference, entitlement thinking, procrastination, and other compromising behaviors need to go. If you and your company have been tolerating the intolerable, it’s time to show that herd of elephants the door. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to sign paychecks for people that don’t like working in my company.
- Create what you want: Creating a culture of accountability doesn’t mean turning your company into a military academy. Remember that accountability is about taking ownership and creating the right outcomes in a planned and efficient manner. You can design that any way you want. If you strive for a culture that’s fun and celebrates self expression, build accountability into it. If you prefer uniforms and structure, build accountability into it. If you don’t build the culture you want, you may not like the one that evolves on its own.
- Don’t fear it: Accountability is not an ugly word or something to fear. The problem is that many leaders fear the push back and repercussions that may occur when ramping up accountability in their companies. If status quo isn’t working out so well and creating a culture of accountability can position your company to achieve extraordinary results … what’s there to fear? Yes, some employees won’t like the change and leave. Some will stay and resist until they get it or hit the road. Most will embrace the change.
In the end, creating a culture of accountability is not an option. It’s what great companies do. No compromise.
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