You can try to hide it, but I know for sure, it exists. I know for two reasons. First because I have witnessed it up close and personal. Secondly, I still struggle in my attempts to hold people accountable. I have over 14 years of my own managerial experience and over 24 years of leadership training, development and consulting on human resource management issues. After working with hundreds of organizations I know for sure somewhere in every organization there are “accountability gaps”.
There is no doubt in my mind that the single biggest performance challenge organizations (both public and private) face today is accountability. A key question is – what are your accountability gaps costing your organization or team?
The good news about achieving success, both personally and organizationally, is that success is always based on just a few “corner stone” factors, they are called the fundamentals. To make any organization or team successful, there are not a 100 things you have to do well, you just have to do the few fundamentals really well and success is sure to follow. The bad news is that a core fundamental of organizational effectiveness is accountability. Truly successful organizations (rare indeed) have somehow successfully encoded accountability into the cultural DNA of the organization, and then support it with performance management systems that drive accountability throughout the organization.
It is clear to me that alpha organizations domindating their industries fully understand two things: … One – that empowerment is essential to drive engagement and performance. And two – empowerment without accountability is a recipe for disaster.
So, one long night I came up with a short list of why so many organizations struggle with accountability. Here is my list of the most common and significant factors that prevent accountability…
• Confusion as to what it really means to hold people accountable. More specifically, confusion between the difference of accountability and responsibility. Also, confusion between holding people accountable and dealing with poor performers. Thus, failure to fully appreciate the vital, essential importance of accountability.
• Managers don’t understand how to delegate effectively and how hold people accountable.
• Managers fear conflict.
• Managers fear appearing to be heavy handed or adversarial.
• Ineffective performance management systems that don’t support accountability.
• Senior executives fail to model accountability.
Allow me to emphasize that achieving accountability it is not easy, and there are no slap-dash, band-aid and aspirin, quick fix solutions. However, there is some good news – achieving accountability it is relatively simple.
It is simple in that if you do just commit to doing one thing really well, then accountability largely happens naturally, And failing to do this one thing well guarantees the creation of accountability gaps. The one self evident crucial success factor is the mutual setting of crystal clear performance expectations.
Holding people accountable for performance (achieving operational outcomes) is one thing; just get your performance expectations mutually clear. However, setting behavioral expectations (how they treat people in the process of achieving their outcomes) is not quite so simple. Setting behavioral expectations could be clarified through a formal mission / values statement. The essential element of setting behavioral expectations is in the leader modeling desired behaviors to give leader credibility when giving corrective feedback on behavioral violations.
So, in closing, I don’t want you to feel too bad about your accountability gaps, believe me you are not alone. I like to leave you with a few questions to noodle on … Are your accountability gaps showing?
If so what are they costing your organization or team?
What do you intend to do to close your accountability gaps?
Greg Campeau Oct/2014