9 Steps to developing a culture of Accountability

By Fleur Heazlewood

Successful execution of your organisational strategy not only requires the right people in the right roles but also doing the right things at the right time. Across every organisation I work with, managers are venting their frustration about the lack of accountability in the workplace – missing deadlines, poor quality of work presented to clients, leaving work at 5pm without completing urgent work, not turning up to team meetings with their action items completed, continually presenting issues without suggested solutions. The list goes on.

Leaders often assume employees know what is expected of them. However, in today’s fast-paced work environment, employees are expected to perform a variety of tasks, wear multiple hats, do more with less, problem solve and think creatively. Leaders and managers are then surprised when the work doesn’t get done as planned and people look for scapegoats rather than find solutions.

It’s the responsibility of leaders to set up an environment which will enable their employees to succeed. To do this expectations need to be clearly defined, priorities communicated, measurements set and processes put in place to hold your employees accountable for those results.

9 steps to developing a culture of accountability:

  1. Be clear: Be clear on your strategy and what really matters.
  2. Prioritise: Decide what the organisation will do, but also what it won’t do, to enable performance.
  3. Ensure alignment: Communicate the vision, mission, values, strategies – continuously so that everyone understands what they are a part of.
  4. Transparency: Leaders and managers keep their commitments and model the behaviour they expect in their employees.
  5. Define expectations: Ensure strategic goals and KPIs are cascaded through to everyone in the organisation. Assign objectives and tasks to specific individual owners with due dates.
  6. Measure outcomes: Focus on energy and activities in the right areas.
  7. Review execution of strategy and outcomes monthly: At team level and with individuals.
  8. Align incentives to performance: Reward people for getting results, rather than getting things done.
  9. Enforce consequences for performance: Confront non-performance and reinforce positive achievement in real time.

So what does an accountable organisation look like? People clarify their requests and commitments; they ask for help and develop solutions for clearing their own roadblocks; they have the difficult conversations to ensure that contributors to their outcomes are meeting timeline expectations; they are supported in saying “no” when priorities are in conflict; and they are empowered to renegotiate or request resources when asked to do something they know they cannot complete.