Today I’m challenging you to encourage accountability.
Did you cringe when you heard that word? Maybe you winced when you heard me say that word. Accountability. Ugh. Accountability. Such a loaded word that means so many things.
Ultimately accountability is used in the corporate world to mean something more negative than it should. Usually, when you say “accountability” you mean that person is responsible for their poor performance. Or, you mean you are going to deliver accountability to someone, meaning you are going to formally discipline them.
You know what I am talking about. Accountability is more negative than supportive. But honestly, we need accountability to be all-encompassing. We need to hold people accountable for their total performance, which means celebrating and appreciating the good work as much as we call out and addressing the underperformance. We can’t let “accountability” become lopsided in the way that we deliver it.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article called How to Actually Encourage Employee Accountability, Ron Carucci said: Accountability processes are the formal and informal ways that leaders talk about, assess, and affirm the contributions of those they lead and the improvements they can make to strengthen those contributions.
So you see, the processes are solely focused on the contributions someone makes as well as the “improvements” they need to make. The processes aren’t well-rounded or focused on the whole contribution level of an employee, it’s one-sided.
He made 3 recommendations on how we as leaders can adjust this and make our employees feel more valued, more connected, and not feel like the process is against them.
- Make dignity the foundation. This means stop judging your direct reports, making assumptions about them, or writing them off. We all know and feel when someone doesn’t have our backs. So then what happens? We avoid them and we don’t perform for them. It’s a downward spiral. Be the leader you need to be so your team performs well. If they don’t, it’s not because of how you feel about each of them. Rod said practice dignity, not surveillance.
- Focus on fairness. When you are fair to everyone and in every situation, your team is more likely to be honest and own mistakes. This helps you run faster.
- Make restoration, not blame, the goal. While many corporate cultures say you can fail, the punishment for failing doesn’t reinforce that. That means no one wants to try anything new, nor do they want to admit when they failed. You have to have a culture that allows for both so set it up that way. Be the leader that allows for mistakes, that actually praises people for making mistakes by showing that at least they tried something new.
How can you practice this in the corporate world so you can then translate it over to your business? That’s your challenge today.