How To Initiate The Process Of Accountability
As leaders, we get the behavior we tolerate. When it comes to holding people accountable, we are often our own worst enemy. We accept excuses that sound logical even when we know better. We allow emotions to cloud our decision making. We delay having a conversation with an under-performer because it’s easier to avoid a difficult conversation than have one. Instead of practicing accountability, we practice avoidance. Three valuable lessons about accountability are,
1. Clear expectations must be established. When your purpose, expectations and rewards are crystal clear, your employees will embrace accountability as a way to become even more successful.
2. Bad news does not improve with age. As soon as you see a problem, it’s best to address it immediately. Failure to speak frankly with the person about his or her performance means nothing will change.
3. It’s not personal. Leave emotions and opinions behind. Stick to the facts, set a plan to get performance back on track, and communicate specific consequences for under-performance.
In organizations like The Container Store, Ernst &Young, Herman Miller, Marriott, Nucor, Sony and Southwest Airlines, accountability is more than a conversation. It’s an attitude and a set of expectations that show up in every aspect of their firms’ operations: how they hire, communicate,develop people and make decisions.
Organizations wrestle with accountability in similar ways, and exceptional organizations succeed by following principles and practices that are similar regardless of age of the organization, geography, industry or size.
Before you can hold others accountable, you must first hold yourself accountable. And you first must know what matters most to you. Two of the hardest questions any of us will ever answer are, “Who am I?” and “What do I want?”
It is pretty easy for most of us to describe to others what we do. This is the doing part of our life. What about the being part? Who do you want to be that causes you to do what you do? Do you do what you do only for the money or for something else? What drives you? What fulfills you? What causes you to make the sacrifices you make?
Most business leaders aspire to their positions because they are skilled and hard-working, and they envision a better life for themselves. More of the good life. As their responsibility grows, some leaders gradually discover they are working harder than ever. They have changed from human beings into human doings.
Does this description resonate with you? If so, try answering these two fundamental questions: “What do I want out of life? Is my business helping me get it or keeping me from it?” These two simple but powerful questions help leaders discover what really matters. Along the way, some leaders realize they are so busy doing what they are doing that they might be enjoying less of who they are being.
Figuring out who you are is the natural first step in the accountability process. You must know who you are, what you want and what you don’t want before you and your organization can codify and live out the core values you will use as guidelines for holding everyone in your enterprise accountable.
What Do You Want?
Executives say that thinking through what is significant in their lives, articulating those thoughts as a set of measurable goals, and then writing them down is a powerful process that drives personal accountability. Compare your personal goals with the goals you’ve established for your career. How do these two sets of goals complement each other? Where are they out of alignment?
Your sweet spot is where your personal core values (what you’re willing to do) intersect with your experience (what you can do) and your interests (what you want to do). Finding your sweet spot is one of the most gratifying accomplishments you can experience. It’s also a key to driving accountability.