I believe most employees want to do a good job. They want clarity on how to be successful and what is expected so they can deliver results. Yet many leaders don’t communicate in a way that brings out the best performance in their employees. There are often little things we do and don’t do as leaders that get in the way of effective communication and results.
In many organizations, accountability has a negative connotation. Many leaders look outside themselves for the problem, and focus on blaming when things go wrong. These managers talk about “holding people accountable” and implement disciplinary action to force improvements. This approach often fails because it leaves the employee feeling disengaged and unmotivated.
Accountability is really about taking responsibility for your actions. You can’t control someone else. But you can control your choices and behaviors.
This is my favorite definition of accountability, from Roger Conners and Tom Smith:
“A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary
for achieving desired results – to see it, own it, solve it, and do it.”
Accountability is an attitude. It is one of the most important characteristics of success. It is a very powerful tool that can create more success in life and work.
One of the most important ways we can instill accountability on our teams is to model it ourselves.
People don’t follow what you say, they follow what you do.
The small things we do every day can either create trust and strengthen relationships, or chip away at trust and damage relationships. The trust you build can strengthen your integrity and credibility, or lack of trust can damage your integrity and credibility.
Accountability looks like…
- Follow through
- Doing what you say you are going to do
- Showing up on time
- Asking for help
- Doing something even if it’s not your job
- Asking for Clarity
Every interaction you have with another person impacts the relationship in either a positive or negative way. When you have positive experiences (do what you say, show up on time, follow through), you create a positive connection. When you have negative experiences (don’t follow through, show up late), you create a negative connection. These interactions impact the relationship, as well as the team.
Another way leaders can instill accountability is to create clarity for employees. This means using language that is specific and clear rather than vague and confusing.
In organizations, we use vague and weak language every day. Words and phrases like “ASAP”, “soon”, “right away”, and “should” get in the way of clarity and results. To get better results in life and in your work, you need to use positive and specific language.
When communicating specific tasks or projects, make sure you are communicating all the information necessary for employees to be successful. Most leaders focus on what needs to be done and neglect to communicate why it needs to be done and by when it needs to be done.
Why → What → When
Why you need it
What you need
When you need it by
If you want your team to produce better results, reflect on how you are communicating. Shifting to clear and specific language, and modeling ownership and accountability yourself will promote a positive sense of ownership and accountability in your team.