By Leah Clark, Director, Strategy & Development
The term “accountability” is rarely used to inspire or excite individuals to greater heights. It’s not a word you’ll find trending on Google or receiving the adulation of its popular word peers (I’m looking at you “disruptor”). The dictionary defines accountability as the state of being accountable, liable, or responsible (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/accountability). With a definition like that, it’s no surprise it’s not a trendy favorite.
But accountability is the unsung hero of leadership.
Without leadership and accountability, you have nothing. No accomplishments. No successes. No results.
Organizations need to reframe accountability and start looking at it as a positive quality. Being accountable is not placing blame or scolding. Rather, accountability is a powerful force that gets things done.
Accountability at work flourishes when people can be trusted to follow through on their commitments. An environment of accountability is one where the leader and team members assume the best in their colleagues—coworkers want to deliver all they can for themselves and for the organization. Being accountable is not about:
- Assuming others will fix a problem; it’s about being resourceful to find your own solutions.
- Blaming others; it’s about understanding your own responsibility.
- Waiting to see how something will turn out; it’s about taking appropriate initiatives.
- Being told what to do; it’s about asking for support when needed.
Resourcefulness, responsibility, initiative, support—these are words of empowerment. When looking at accountability through this lens, the message it sends is that you believe in your employees, not that you will be checking on them to see where they are failing.
BlessingWhite’s research on leaders across organizations revealed that 41% of respondents say driving accountability is a leadership development topic that could most improve their ability to achieve results for the organization. As leaders, you can reframe accountability and take actions to help it flourish.
- Assume positive intent – Know that your people want to get things done—to succeed for you, themselves, the team, and the enterprise.
- Think about accountability as a force for good—a way to find out what people need from you to accomplish results.
- Bring a growth mindset to accountability – Know that you have the resources within you, as do others, to grow and learn even through mistakes.
- Think about accountability with an enterprise mindset – It’s important to achieve results for your group and for the larger organization.
- Model accountability by following through on your actions and by asking for help from others when you need it to get the job done.
- Communicate your expectations and your support.
- Help others take initiative – Don’t solve things for them, but coach them to be resourceful.
- Collaborate to better understand what is needed to be successful, and recognize that reaching out to others for ideas and support is positive.
- Encourage your staff to act early if things are not going well – They should reach out to you, or others, to find ways to fix a problem rather than wait to fail.
Accountability might not have the same swagger as innovation, and there’s no text abbreviation or emoji that can help bring it to life. But without accountability, innovation remains just an idea. Goals remain unfulfilled. Accomplishments cannot happen. Author Bob Proctor once said “accountability is the glue that binds commitment to results”. As a leader, one of the most empowering things you can do is to hold people accountable—tell them that you believe in their ability to be successful and that you will support them in achieving success. That’s the power of accountability.