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Accountability is one of those elusive commodities that everyone (big/small/local/multinational) is looking for. Corporations are trying to drive more productivity and performance across their Organisations, Senior Leaders are trying to get their direct reports to be more accountable, Team Leaders are wanting the team to step up and be more accountable, Individual Contributors are wanting their peers to be more accountable to teamwork and results.

Lack of accountability is a daily operational frustration – making real progress scarce. In a strategic sense it’s cumulative effect is massive. Bain and Co research suggests that the best companies are more than 40% more productive than the rest. This difference in productivity results in significantly higher profits, operating margins 30-50% higher than industry peers and faster growth. It is also estimated that individual productivity increases by approximately 35% when leaders hold people more accountable for outcomes.

Let’s explore this at the Team, Leader and Individual level to see what development actions you need to take to establish more accountability, disperse more accountability and hold more accountability to get the results you want.

So what do you need to do to establish more accountability in your team? Strategically there will be certain core business drivers relevant to your sector, company and function that are making you unproductive and costing you loads of money. As one highly regarded CEO said recently, “the truck is driving down the road full of money, with the back door open letting notes fall out behind”. By the way, he asked his senior leadership team to go back and get it all! Another perspective on the issue suggests that if core factors are left unresolved, they will continue to cause significant organisational drag – measured in both time to productivity and profit return. Losing staff in the first eighteen months is a good example.

We recommend setting three critical goals, with clear measures of success that will enable your team to deliver on the organisational strategy this year. “What gets measured gets managed”, so agree on those core drivers, set up a tracking mechanism, and report on it every time your team meets. Clarity comes with simplicity and rewards us with focus!

All the leaders I work with are looking to challenge their direct reports to step up to another level. Their frustration is often mirrored in the lack of engagement in their team. Too often the leader ends up taking and holding all the accountability in an effort to drive the needle forward. The team members then sit back with a “there’s no use anyway” attitude. You don’t get accountability without empowerment. Metaphorically you need to hand over the baton with the receiver knowing it is theirs to carry. Each critical goal and key activity, whether it be a sales process or a function within the service value chain, can and should be owned by someone in the team. They can then be charged for developing, innovating and updating best practice within their accountability area. They should also get the chance ‘to shine’ by reporting progress to the team.

You can establish accountability and disperse accountability but the best leaders create a culture of accountability by clearly holding people accountable. You’ll know it if you have it when people are on time and prepared for meetings. The best leaders I see have a genuine balance of Emotional Intelligence and ability to hold people accountable. This takes work and needs to be practiced diligently. It starts with holding yourself accountable for your own leadership. As Susan Colantuono, CEO of Leading Women eloquently says, “All career transitions require an identity shift”. With this you need to move from wanting to be liked, being the smartest in the room to being respected through enabling others. Holding people accountable also demonstrates a commitment to great outcomes, which is the missing 33% of leadership for some.

We know that one inspired employee is 2.25 times more productive than a satisfied employee. How can you inspire your people? How do you get inspired? Having a clear goal, being connected to the bigger picture, feeling like you are in control, achieving success and progression? This all comes from establishing, dispersing and holding people accountable as a leader. No doubt you are looking to change the game this year and accelerate strategic projects through your people. Lighthouse has proven, internationally-recognised programs to support you. We can help Enable Strategy through your People in three ways;

– Enabling Strategy through Senior Managers
– Enabling Strategy through Middle Managers
– Enabling Strategy through Talent

Lighthouse’s purpose is to spark an evolution in leadership. We build Leadership capability to take your business to the next level. Please contact us to discuss how we can help with Enabling Strategy through People, Building Business Acumen, Innovation Mindset and Culture or Advancing Women in Leadership. This article was written by Peter Nankervis. Peter can be contacted at [email protected]

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