It has been said that the devil is in the details and when it comes to executing our strategic plan the details count. Creating a culture of accountability is a great way to get more done.
We are continuing our look at 5 habits that make execution easier. This week we are focusing on habit #5.
Create a Culture of Accountability
I will admit I did not understand what it takes to create a lasting culture of accountability until I had been supervising teams for several years and I did not get good at it until several years after that.
Creating this accountability is challenging and the rewards are well worth the work.
My Journey to a Culture of Accountability…
- We must begin by looking in the mirror. We, as leaders (formal or informal), must be accountable ourselves. We cannot create a culture that we are not an integral part of. My first challenge was acknowledging that I needed to improve my own level of accountability and then make changes personally. This included owning up to mistakes.
- Accountability requires clarity on what people do. What are the expectations of everyone’s job? In this part of the journey, I realized the danger of assumptions! We all had them and generally, they were all different. Gaining clarity required time – conversations, asking questions, documenting what we learned along the way – this became a joint venture between the staff person and me. I also learned that oftentimes people are reluctant to have these conversations. I had to prove to people that I was genuinely interested in understanding the details of their job and how we could make it work better – for them and the team. We cannot rush this step – be patient.
- Awesome – we are on the same page about what we all do! Accountability requires measurement for the purpose of continuous improvement. At this point, I had earned enough trust for us, as a team, to begin designing our system of measurement. We also developed how we would engage in continuous improvement. Over time as we developed more trust in each other our measurement and improvement accelerated. One note, one or two times of playing “gotcha” with someone over an error can set you back. As the leader, we must consistently demonstrate our commitment to helping people experience success.
- Creating a culture of accountability and maintaining it requires communication – lots and lots of communication. This is not a one-and-done. It requires regularly spaced communication to effectively create and manage a continuous improvement cycle. I would argue that the most critical part of communication is providing feedback to individuals. No, not the annual performance review! I am talking about constant feedback. What is going well? Where might someone improve? Checking in to ask how we can help them improve. Hint – we cannot do this by waiting until people show up at our office door. Our conversations and feedback must be a part of our day – communication is required to help people succeed.
It took me years to fully understand and implement these strategies and it was worth every minute. It is deeply satisfying when we understand that most people want to be involved in something bigger than themselves and they want to win.
A culture of accountability does improve our execution and perhaps more importantly we can accomplish amazing goals and have great fun along the way.