Mandating Accountability Instead of Modeling It

Mandating Accountability Instead of Modeling It


“From now on, we WILL have a culture of accountability!” says Fred, the CEO of ABC Company at his monthly Executive Team meeting. His team looks at each other and they roll their eyes. They know something that Fred doesn’t: accountability starts with him, and he doesn’t have a clue what it is or where to start.
 

What is Accountability?

A traditional definition of “accountability” means to account for one’s actions. My definition expands this to also include taking responsibility for one’s feelings, beliefs and opinions. Accountability is a personal attribute. Organizational accountability occurs only when individuals behave accordingly. 

Where to Start?

At Vistage’s international conference in 2009, Patrick Lenicioni said, “The successful companies get the behavioral stuff right.” Personal accountability is one of the most determinant behavioral factors required for a successful life, business or government. 

As the leader of his company, Fred creates its culture, and he is ultimately responsible for all results. To foster a culture of accountability where little or none exists, Fred starts with these steps: 

1. He spends some time reflecting on his past behavior and its contribution to the loss of a major customer. He takes responsibility for his related actions and the resulting feelings by using “I” statements. He does not blame others or external events. He understands his development as leader is directly related to his growth as a person.  

 2. After thoughtful reflection, Fred takes the most difficult step: he publicly takes responsibility for the problem. At the next Executive Team meeting, Fred says, “I did not make a decision in time to save our favorite customer. I am responsible for the loss. The next time that our Vice President of Sales brings us an important opportunity which requires my involvement, I commit to responding within 4 hours.” His leadership team respects his self-disclosure and taking ownership of his mistake. By
example, Fred has also created a safe environment for his Executives to do the same.

3.  Fred carefully considers every future commitment: “Do I have adequate resources (time, money and people) to execute this promise?” Only when he is sure that he does, he publicly and clearly states his promise, and then he follows through, every time. It doesn’t take long for Fred’s team to notice his new behavior and for it to earn him their trust and respect.

4. At the end of every meeting, Fred asks the following questions of his team and record’s their answers:

“What is your next step?”

“When will you accomplish it?”

5. At the start of each subsequent meeting, Fred asks each member:

“What was your commitment?”

“Did you accomplish it?”

He praises those who followed through and asks those who didn’t, to recommit. Not surprisingly, Fred is thrilled to see a radical improvement in his Executive Team’s attitude and accomplishments.

Once these five steps become habitual, Fred requires his Executive Team to implement them with their direct reports. Fred also hires outside experts to implement an organization-wide educational program on how individuals increase their accountability. 

It wasn’t easy, but Fred successfully transformed the culture of ABC Company because he modeled accountable behavior instead of just mandating it. How can you be more accountable?

 

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