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Accountability Starts at the Top!

Accountability starts at the top. It 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. In fact, throwing the word around makes it feel like a slimy buzz word. But, it is not. Accountability is critical for success in business. I am a big accountability advocate and I rant about it often. Each time I hear someone blame someone else, I want to scream – ACCOUNTABILITY! At what point are you going to own your actions?
Accountability improves performance within businesses, within teams and ultimately in everything we do. To be effective, accountability needs to be more than simply a word that leaders toss around. Our leaders must first show us what it means to be accountable. Accountability starts at the top and if our leaders do not set the example, what does that say to us? 
Leaders, start here: “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. I typically hear: 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. 

After I get this same answer from candidate after candidate, I then ask, tell me about a time when you were accountable for your actions. Now is the point in which the candidate has to think and apply. The last thing a candidate wants to say is “I can’t recall a time when I was accountable”. Right?

To be accountable, we must understand 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. 

Building 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 then know what to do and can go do it. 

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. We want leaders that 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 be accountable, leaders cannot spend time trying to find out who or what to blame. Leaders must understand the why of the situation and help us work together to find a solution. 

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. Effective leaders will build accountable teams by:

  • Setting the example
  • Creating an environment of open communication
  • Setting goals and priorities
  • Getting out of the way
  • Removing roadblocks when needed
  • Providing an open, safe space for dialogue to work through challenges
  • Achieve results. No excuses.
  • No blame, ever. Only solutions.
  • Learning from the losses 

AND, most importantly, 

  • Celebrating the wins!

If you want to build an accountable workplace, first, start with you!

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