10 Essentials for a Culture of Accountability

Culture of Accountability

I’ve been writing in recent posts about the GOST model and how to use it to turn goals in action and results.  While knowing where you are going and having a plan to get there is important, results only arise through taking action.  In this post and the ones following, I am shifting my attention to taking action and getting the results you desire.  After all, leaders are judged on their results.

A key part of any leader’s role is to generate a culture of accountability.  I define accountability as the willingness to accept responsibility to take action.  Team members commit to achieve the goals of the team and it is the foundation of a high performing team.

Talking about culture is tricky.  It is hard to describe what it is, but we know it when we see it.  The most important thing for any leader is knowing how to generate the desired culture.  Here are 10 essential behaviors to establish a culture of accountability.

10 Essentials for a Culture of Accountability

  1. Be clear on the ‘why’.  We start with why to establish a shared sense of purpose by connecting to what the team member cares about.
  2. Create a shared understanding of what success looks like.  Knowing what the goal is and what success looks like is a critical part of motivation.  Without it, we can’t judge progress or keep an image of success in front of us.
  3. Seek commitment instead of compliance.  Commitment and accountability go hand in hand.  Without commitment, our sense of purpose is missing and the motivation to take action fades. 
  4. Focus on what not how.  Our objective as the leader is to achieve the outcome.  There are usually many different paths to that outcome.  Empowering team members to find their own path is motivating and results in a stronger sense of personal accountability.
  5. Coach don’t tell.  Coaching is all about asking questions, and listening to the other person’s perspective.  Coaching is a powerful way to guide the team member to find their own path to the goal.
  6. Monitor progress to the goal.  While you don’t what to tell your team member how to get to the goal, you also can’t abdicate your responsibility to achieve the outcome.  It is important you understand what is going on and coach your team member as necessary.
  7. Stay committed to the outcome.  We live and work in a fast paced, ever changing world.  We need to be flexible but that doesn’t mean continually moving the goal posts.  Carefully consider any trade offs and promote stability by only canceling current projects as a last resort.
  8. Provide regular feedback.  Receiving regular positive and constructive feedback is an important source of motivation.  It demonstrates commitment to the outcome and to the team member’s performance and growth.  
  9. Recognize wins and reward good outcomes.  Highlighting early wins is a great way to build confidence and show the team member they are making good progress.  When the goal is achieved it is tempting to move on to the next thing, but before you do, ensure each participant receives recognition for the their contribution.
  10. Value learning.  Getting results is critical, and so is building the team’s capability to generate even better results in future.  Do this by reflecting on the learning when things do and don’t go well. 

If the above list seems daunting, start by picking one or two of them to focus on.  Tell your team what you are working on and ask for feedback.  Are your actions being received in the manner you intend?

To help you remember the 10 essentials, I’ve provided a one page summary at the link below.