What are accountability skills?
Accountable leaders lay a path for teams to follow and are defined by being held answerable for accomplishing a goal or assignment. If it is approached correctly, accountability can allow you and your team to produce positive, measurable results for your business.
“Accountable doesn’t mean blaming people. It means we all as leaders own what we need to do and what we need to get other people to do.”
Accountability Gets Results
Being an accountable leader and insisting on accountability from your team can help you achieve results, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
The positive results of practicing constructive accountability include:
- Improved performance
- Better employee participation and involvement
- Increased feelings of competency
- More commitment to work from employees
- More innovation and creativity
- Higher satisfaction at work
Honesty and Integrity.
When your boss asks in a company meeting, “how’s that project coming?” do you honestly reply, “we are really behind” or “pretty good?” Those who are accountable have the courage to tell the truth. This courage is often reinforced because people see their managers being open and direct with them.
Trust. We did some research on a set of leaders who were not trusted and found their employees had the following issues:
- I am not confident that my efforts will be rewarded
- I suspect the leader may take advantage of me
- I constantly question the leader’s motives
- I am sure they will take credit for my accomplishments
- These are not factors that will build accountability. In contrast, the three pillars that build trust are positive relationships, knowledge, and consistency of leaders.
Clear Vision and Direction. There is an old Chinese proverb that explains this issue well: “The hunter that chases two rabbits catches neither one.” In organizations, people are often chasing multiple rabbits and they don’t catch any of them. How can you expect people to be accountable if they aren’t absolutely clear about the organization’s vision for where they’re going and what needs to be accomplished? Clearly, you can’t.
Problem Solving and Technical Expertise
It is impossible to feel accountable when a person is confused and doesn’t know how things work. Teach your people the skills and give them the training they need, and make absolutely sure they know how to do the job you expect.
When a leader can effectively communicate, others can understand what they are accountable for. This requires being able to tell, ask, and listen to others.
Ability to Change
We found that people who are really good at creating change in an organisation had employees who are operating at higher levels of accountability. Leaders who are good at instituting change are effective at the following behaviours: accepting feedback, taking on challenges, innovating, spreading optimism, showing concern, and setting clear goals.
On the long personal and organisational “to do” list, accountability should be at the top of the list. If you see a fatal flaw in yourself or your current leaders on any of these seven points, you should address it immediately.
Respectful Conflict Resolution
Change is never easy, especially as a company-wide initiative. The majority of organizations fail when trying to implement a switch in leadership or a call for improved accountability. Many of the challenges can be traced back to unhealthy conflict resolution. Do your employees know how to respectfully disagree?
Many people aren’t trained in conflict resolution and avoid conflict at all costs. While it’s not the most fun part of the job, it’s necessary in order to move forward. Address the conflict and talk through resolutions a team. Speak and listen with respect and remind each other of the common goal. Sometimes conflict is fueled by passion, which isn’t always a bad thing. It could just be that it needs redirecting.
When you begin to master these leadership accountability skills individually, it allows you to focus on what can be done collectively. It requires commitment, perseverance, and a strong belief that, as a leader, great opportunities come with an even greater responsibility. There is a higher standard required that separates those who say they want to be a leader and those who actually are.
Ways to Demonstrate Leadership Accountability & Ensure It in Others
Accountability occurs when individuals reliably deliver on their commitments, showing others they can be trusted to do what they say they’ll do. Leaders further demonstrate accountability by taking responsibility for the outcomes of their actions and decisions and successfully transforming effort into results.
“Gold standard” accountability is of such a high quality that others see it as the best possible combination of behavior and judgment, compelling others to follow it. It consists of performance excellence and the mastery of the key skills and behaviors necessary for any job. Drawing on some of the insights from In Your Hands, here are 5 ways to build “gold standard” accountability in leaders at every level of the organization:
Lead by Example
When individuals demonstrate accountability through their actions, they are setting the pace for leadership and performance excellence. They’re also showing others how to be accountable for doing what they say they’ll do. Leaders can be pacesetters and demonstrate accountability by exhibiting the following behaviors:
- Discipline – staying on track and not getting derailed by competing priorities or desires
- Integrity – being honest about the likelihood of delivering on commitments, and apologizing when something goes wrong
- Execution – mastering new skills and behaviors and striving to achieve executional excellence
Develop Accountable Leaders
Training in specific skills and competencies can help leaders understand what it means to be accountable and which behaviors help to demonstrate accountability. By building accountability into your leadership development program, leaders at all levels will learn how to deliver on commitments and then see the importance of being reliable and trustworthy in the eyes of others. Leadership development can also help managers learn how to set and communicate expectations, and how to hold their direct reports accountable for the results they commit to.
Communicate and Share Information
Demonstrating accountability and ensuring it in others also involves sharing information and knowledge that will help others know how to behave in certain scenarios. Individuals learn by watching others and practicing desired behaviors, but they also learn from the advice and guidance of others who are already achieving “gold standard” accountability. For those who manage others, it is also important to communicate the importance of results, so that effort does not get confused with outcomes.
Build Individual Understanding
At the outset of any initiative or activity, it’s important for individuals to understand expectations, the resources and support available, and what they need to do to be accountable for their part. This helps to avoid the pitfall of over-committing and under-delivering. Some of the tools that can help support individual understanding of the need to be accountable include:
- Mentorship and coaching – help individuals see different behaviors that can help them demonstrate accountability
- Multi-rater assessments – show individuals how their own accountability (or lack thereof) impacts others
Team meetings – provide an opportunity for regularly reviewing and discussing the progress of everyone’s accountabilities and how they impact the team’s goals and objectives