7 Steps to Building an Accountable Team

accountability road signWhat is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “accountability?”

Accountability can mean different things to different people. To some, it means creating goals and working towards them. For others, it means people doing what they said they would do. In any case, accountability is critical to the growth and success … of anything.

Too many believe that to ingrain accountability into an organization’s culture, there has to be the threat of punitive action: “Do this or you’re fired.”  That’s only effective when you’ve already made a hiring mistake and you’re looking for a reason to fire that “mistake.”

Highly accountable people (a trait that should be pressure tested during the hiring process) do not need to be threatened to perform.

It’s a leader’s job to develop a motivating culture. I’ve seen leadership teams scour the earth to unlock the “magic” that will make their teams accountable. The funny thing is, we don’t need another technique or more information on accountability. What we need to do is apply what we already know to be true.

If someone is not doing what they said they would do (small or big), help them understand the objectives, the outcomes and your expectations. Set a course of correction with a timeline. This helps people win.

If they still don’t do what they said they would do, or follow through on their promises (big or small), then it’s probably time to send them on down the road.

Developing a motivating culture all comes down to seven key steps that you can implement right away. (BTW, they are all overly obvious and embarrassingly simple … but not easy!)

  1. Hire right. Click here to read “3 Steps to Hiring the Right Person.”
  2. Set clear expectations and outcomes. Scattered focus gets scattered results. If you are not clear, then your team cannot be clear.
  3. Be open to honest conversations. There is no perfect person or process and people do not expect perfection – they want authenticity. Be honest about what is and is not working, show them you are for them and make honest conversations a two-way street.
  4. Do what you say you will do. Seems so simple but it’s a lost art. If the team aligns on a goal or makes a promise, you must stay the course until or unless better information comes along…communication is key
  5. Honestly embrace the team – not the “team.” Too often, I’ve seen executive teams set goals, then immediately go off into their own cliques to complain about how unrealistic it is, or how so-and-so’s team will never meet their obligations. Leadership must win or lose as a team. Executives must stop worrying about how to cover their behinds and really get to the heart of how to reach the goals.
  6. Don’t try to fake trust. If you don’t trust your core team, they won’t trust you. Fact is, if trust doesn’t exist at the very top, you can be guaranteed that the rest of the company already knows this. They see their team leader roll their eyes at the goal or make backhanded remarks about other team members. Trust must be built from the top down, and it must be real. That means that every member of the team must be open to honest, sometimes painful conversations. Goals will be challenged. Debates will happen. Doing this respectfully and honestly is the only way to create real success
  7. Get specific and take action. The conversation is happening…it’s your choice to be part of the conversation or be the subject of the conversation. Whether there is or is not accountability is painfully obvious to everyone; the question is if it will be talked about in vague, cryptic terms or if it will get specific, using names and examples so you can set a course of correction. Punishment is not the goal; helping someone win is the goal. If they chose not to win with you, then release them into the world.

When all these elements are in place, the CEO can stand up in front of the entire organization to discuss the goals and say, “We win or lose as a team!” and the rest of the organization believes it! Accountability almost doesn’t have to be mentioned. Everyone knows what they’re striving for, and everyone knows their part in reaching that goal. And, they know that the goals are meant to motivate, not punish.

QUESTION: How do you feel when you walk into your workplace? More importantly, what can you do today to make it better or support what is great?

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