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Accountability Starts at the Top

Accountability seems simple. Accountability starts at the top. Accountability starts with our leaders. 

It should be simple. Why aren’t more of us accountable for our actions? How do you build an accountable workplace?

Accountability.  What exactly does that mean?  Accountability is a word that gets thrown around as if saying the word means everyone will suddenly be accountable. Sadly, that is not going to make everyone accountable.  I am a big accountability advocate because it improves performance within the business and within teams and ultimately in everything we do. To be effective, accountability needs to be more than simply a word that leaders use. 
What does accountability mean to you?

I am sure most of us can text-book-define accountability. During the interview process, I ask “What does accountability mean to you?”  In most cases, I get the same or similar answers.  Accountability is “do what you say and own your mistakes”. It is easy to say those words. However, saying and doing are two very different actions.  Do you think everyone executes on accountability?  If you are in leadership, HR or simply paying attention, I think you will agree, not everyone is accountable. 

Understanding expectations

People want to do well at their job. However, to be accountable, employees must fully understand what is expected. This takes us to leadership. Leaders set the tone for what we do, when we do it, how we do it and when it needs to be completed. If our leaders are not clarifying expectations then how do we know what to do? Failure to set expectations can hardly be held against employees. 

Creating an accountable workplace

We all have a role to play in our organizations. Our role is made up of our job structure, our activities, our priorities and our goals. That said, accountability starts at the top.  Leaders must first be accountable before they can expect accountability from their teams. Our leaders must fully understand the business needs while having the ability to convey those needs to their teams. Our leaders must work with us to set our priorities. In turn, employees will know what to do and can go do what they do best.

Lead by example

If our leaders want us to be accountable, then leaders must walk-the-walk. We all want to work for leaders that can lead us, those that can show us the way. The very basics of accountable leadership are:

  • Hard work
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Effective communication
  • Trust
  • Transparency

For us to respect our leaders, we must, in turn, see basic leadership skills.  These are just a few of the things that make us want to work hard for our leaders. 

To build an accountable workplace, you have to first, start with the basics. You have to build the foundation. You have to start with effective leadership.

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