March 30

What Ineffective Leaders Miss in Accountability

Accountability is an important topic for leaders.  So important that I teach half-day training sessions for larger companies on creating an environment for accountability to exist.  In all the training sessions that I do on this topic, leaders miss one essential thing to create powerful accountability.  The leader must be accountable first.

If you are leading teams and your style is more of a “do as I say not as I do” approach, accountability will be tough to come by. 

Perhaps you are thinking this isn’t me. Perhaps you have already fessed up.  All of us are guilty of this.  Here are some things to look at for yourself.

You may lack accountability as a leader if you…:

  • Don’t have a role written down for yourself.  You lack clarity on what your most important functions are to lead their team.
  • Lack understanding of your strengths and/or you don’t design your work around what you do best in the form of scheduling.
  • Constantly respond to “crisis” events.
  • Leave projects half-finished.
  • Change your mind frequently as to what the next move for your company is.
  • Say things and then don’t follow through.
  • Get angry at your team members for behaviors that you are also guilty of while justifying your behavior because “you are the boss”.
  • Avoid planning and goal setting.

Does any of this sound familiar?  If any of us are being honest, we all exhibit some of these qualities as leaders at times.  Some do this more than others.

Rather than beat yourself up over what you aren’t doing as a leader, here are some things to work on to help you stay accountable.

  1. Get Some Accountability in Your Life.   It’s not uncommon for me to run into leaders who don’t work with a coach, have a mentor, meet with a therapist or operate in a mastermind.  It doesn’t matter what form that accountability comes in as long as it helps you to see your blind spots.
  2. Create a set of Core Values for Your Company.  There are a lot of successful companies out there that have issues with team culture and follow through.  Many of these companies lack core values.  Creating core values makes it clear to you and the team what the most important behavior is in your organization.  This is a great team exercise as well if you don’t have this in place.
  3. Utilize Agreements.  Agreements create a container that your organization operates within.  Think of them like boundaries (although not always the same).  Agreements create an opportunity for you and your team members to discuss and agree upon (thus the name agreements) for how you will operate at work.  When things break down at work it’s typically because of one of two things, either your team doesn’t understand the request or there are no agreements.  Unaccountable leaders operate from a world of unspoken expectations.  They say things like, “that person should just know that”.  You are responsible, as a leader, to ensure that communication is understood as well as agreed upon.
  4. Be a Stand for the Things that You Hold Dear.  Agreements, goals, and values don’t mean anything if you are unwilling to be a stand for these things in your daily work environment.  Human beings are rebellious.  We love to toe the line and see what we can get away with. A leader will stand for the standards that have been created to give those standards real meaning.
  5. Embrace Confrontation.  Confrontation is a gift but only if we use it to help people and solve problems.  It’s not a gift if we use it for control, guilt, and shame.  Confronting difficult situations can be a powerful way to create accountability when you are able to show your team where they are off track and help them get back into integrity with their work.
  6. Create Measurable Goals.  Your team wants to know what the standard is and how they can achieve the standard.  Without measurable outcomes, this becomes more difficult for team members to assess and they will likely feel confused by what you expect of them.  If you are assuming that people just “know”, well, they don’t.
  7. Be Disciplined.  If you don’t have the discipline to embrace the things above, why would your team embrace them?  The quick answer they won’t and for the ones that do, they likely won’t respect you enough to stick around.  Jordan Peterson had this to say about this topic:

“Can you imagine yourself in 10 years if, instead of avoiding the things you know you should do, you actually did them every single day? That’s powerful.”

Your team is an investment and we make deposits into our team every day whether those deposits are intentional (how we interact) or unintentional (what they see).  If accountability is important, look at this list.  The things listed are easy to do but hard to live.  They require your desire and your discipline to make it happen.  When you actively work towards this end, you start to create influence in a way that invites your team to a higher standard, and they work in an empowered way.

The thing not to miss here is that you have all the power to influence healthy accountability.

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