3 Cs can boost accountability in your workplace

How accountable are leaders and team members in your organization? How strong are players’ "commitments to their commitments"?

Accountability seems like it should be simple. People commit to goals, projects, results, service activities, values and behaviors, etc., then do what they’ve promised to do, the way they’ve promised to do it. Easy, right?

Not so easy.

When I interview senior leaders of organizations to learn how their current culture operates, one of the most frequently mentioned issues is “inconsistent accountability.”

Think about these recent scenarios clients have shared:

  • A project team member announces that they can’t deliver what they’ve promised on time, which will set the whole project back by weeks.
  • A key player isn’t getting what she needs from her team, so she misses an critical customer delivery date.
  • A team member is overwhelmed, so chooses to finish one project this week while ignoring promised action on a dozen other projects.

Missed commitments make your players, your team and your company look bad. They give customers every reason to go elsewhere for products and services.

I’ve seen clients try to address the accountability issue with a variety of approaches. The carrot (incentives), the stick (punishment), bribes, begging -- these don’t solve the problem. There are hundreds of variables that can inhibit people delivering on their promises, things like they don’t have the required skills, others aren’t doing their parts, they’ve got too much on their plates, etc.

These three tips will help you improve your accountability quotient.

Communication

Make sure each player know exactly what his or her goal is. Use the SMART goal approach to ensure clarity and agreement. Then, engage with all players regularly, at least twice a week, with five-minute updates -- what’s going well, what’s already done, what’s new, what’s a concern. Celebrate the good and learn details about the concerns (which will take more than five minutes!). Open, transparent discussions keep everyone informed.

Cooperation

Teamwork ensures that the responsibility for delivering on promised products and services is shared by all members of the crew. Individual skills are great, but a “lone ranger” approach may place too great a burden on one player. Huddle your team daily to discuss what’s going well, what’s done, what’s new, what concerns exist, etc. Then help team members to work together to keep the project on track, every day.

Consequences

This is a "loaded" term. When people think of consequences, they think of punishment. Be a bearer of positive consequences as well as negative consequences. Praise aligned effort as well as accomplishment. People do a lot of things right, so recognize them for those good things. And, when issues arise, even if they are no single person’s fault, present the consequences without judgement. The team may need to put in extra hours or a player may have to drive across town to get a needed tool or part.

If you have consistent, open communication in an environment of team cooperation, you won’t have to spend as much time with delivering negative consequences. My experience is that many more things will go well, which means you’ll be investing lots of time delivering positive consequences. Commitments will be delightfully met, frequently.

How good is accountability in your team? What techniques do you and team members use to keep your commitments to your commitments?

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