I thought I would start off this article by defining accountability in leadership with the help of Wikipedia.
“In leadership roles, accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.” – Wikipedia
As a leader, we are accountable for both ourselves and those that we work with. And we are accountable to hold them accountable. That’s a lot of accountability!
Let’s start with ourselves, how can we do a better job of being accountable, especially since an effective leader leads by example? What can we do to ensure that we are accountable to the process, to our bosses, to our people, to the organization and to our clients & customers?
Here are a few ways:
1. Be truthful and honest with your word. Let’s all do what we say we will do and mean what we say when we say it. If we tell someone we will ensure something is taken care of, whether we delegate the actual doing of it or not, we need to follow up and ensure that it is done, when and how we said it would be done. If someone asks us for our opinion and/or feedback on something, ensure that our words match how we feel and what we truly think. I am not saying that we should be mean about it, diplomacy is in order here, however, if we truly do not like something, we need to tell them but also tell them why and if possible & appropriate, even give some solutions to correct it. Do we risk hurting someone else’s feelings? Yes, that is a risk but a greater risk is in being untruthful. We do not control how another will take what we say. As long as we are saying it in the most loving and caring way possible, if they allow it to hurt them, then that is on them. A leader must be truthful and honest with their words.
2. Be on time, in fact, be early. If we say we will be somewhere at a certain time, then be there when we say we will be there, preferably before. This not only shows accountability, it shows respect for others as well because time is the most precious commodity that we all have and so when we respect each other’s time, we let them know we care. In return they respect us because we respected them and their time. Now, if an emergency comes up or we are simply going to be late, let’s all have the common courtesy to contact the other party and let them know, preferably before the scheduled time. In this day and age of so many ways to communicate, especially on the go, there really is no excuse why we cannot make that connection.
Also, if we set a certain amount of time for an appointment, be cognizant about it and do our very best to end the meeting on time. We will also earn the others respect and will gain a reputation for being considerate of others time.
3. Be organized. One of the best ways to adhere to a culture of accountability is to be organized. This allows us to know exactly where to find things we need when we need them. To know exactly what we are supposed to be doing and when. To be able to keep track of what those we are accountable for are doing and when we are scheduled to follow up with them. It makes for a well oiled machine, in which all of us are doing our part in a timely, productive and efficient manner and leads to accountability being more than just a word but a way of life.
Now, how can we do a better job of holding those we lead to be accountable?
First of all, as I mentioned before, lead by example. Do everything you can to hold yourself accountable. Secondly, set up a system in which you can keep track of everything that those you lead are accountable for and follow up with them on a regular basis. I am not talking about micromanaging here. There is a fine line between that and being an effective leader. We want to give those we lead enough freedom to be able to do their job without feeling like we are watching over their shoulders and at the same time hold them accountable for what has been delegated to them. This calls for effective communication, trust, clear goals and understanding of the work to be done. It also calls for all leaders to create an environment of mutual respect and honesty, where those that we lead are free to do their jobs in an innovative way without the fear of retribution when things may not go as planned.
Even though they know they are accountable, they need to be able to know that if they indeed make a mistake that it is part of the learning process. Of course, there are some jobs where the margin for error is extremely thin and so we as leaders must do everything we can to provide the proper training and guidance to ensure that mistakes are kept to a very small percentage, however, in doing so, we still need to create a culture of understanding in which we support each other, especially when things do not go as planned.
Finally, it is our responsibility as leaders to hold those we serve to be accountable, meaning our leaders. If we are to expect those we lead to be accountable to us, then we must hold those that lead us to at least the same standards, if not a higher level. So, this means that we must ensure that the policies and procedures that are put in place and the decisions that are made truly are in alignment with how things are actually done and reflect the vision, mission and soul of the organization. And, if we come across something that is not in alignment, that we have the courage and conviction to bring it to their attention.
While accountability is a must in any organization, it should be balanced and enhance the concepts of vision, innovation and learning. When we hold ourselves and others accountable, as leaders, we show that we have a mutual respect for one another, which leads to an organization being more creative, efficient and effective and in turn leads to happy employees, which ultimately leads to happy clients/customers.