Achievers are always accountable for results. And leadership fails when the leader does not hold all team members accountable. I am sure you have heard that many times before. You might have even heard it from a boss you had imploring you to “hold them accountable.” Some people see this as a problem. They fear that holding people accountable will hurt relationships. In reality, it requires more skilled relation building over mutually agreed to goals.
Creating a culture of accountability requires collaboration, communication of goals, and understanding the nature of motivation. Having conversations about accountability should be combined with empowering your team to take ownership of their work. You need to communicate the goals and the desired outcomes, but they need to be a part of it. Be totally transparent regarding challenges and obstacles. Your team should not fear making mistakes but should learn from them. Honest and direct conversations need to occur if you expect the right outcome. When a team member is part of those conversations collaboration will occur.
Now let’s look at another dimension of this. Some people drive accountability through coercion and fear. The leader does not have the skills to generate an honest and frank conversation. This has dire consequences and causes leaders to fail badly. Consider what happens if you have an employee who needs to speak up and offer opinions but fears doing so. The outcomes could be worse than if you had no accountability.
The book, “Crucial Confrontations”, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzer really talks about this topic. How do we handle missed commitments, failed promises, and bad behavior regarding our staff, our boss, our spouse, our children, or any other relationship?
The book points out where a lack of confrontation by the team to management resulted in tragedy in the US Space Shuttle program.
In January 1986, the Challenger Space Shuttle along with 7 American astronauts was lost in the Florida sky. Investigators later determined that the “0” rings failure had been responsible for the explosion. It was later learned that several months before the disaster, some NASA scientists were concerned that the “0” rings might malfunction in colder weather. But they never confronted the chain of command at NASA. The culture at NASA was such that those who brought up obstacles might not have continued career success. NASA’s lack of encouraging ownership and accountability resulted in a real tragedy.
Do you really want to be frustrated over missed commitments, broken promises, or bad behavior? If not, I suggest that you understand your people along with knowing and communicating company vision and values. When an issue arises, frame the real issue. For example, if the problem is consistent lateness with projects don’t frame it as lateness. Instead, frame it as continued broken promises and reliability. If you need to inform your boss about an important failure you see in the organization do so in the same manner. Learn to have frank and honest conversations about accountability. Above all be accountable to yourself and your values.
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