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Personal accountability happens when individual employees rise above hurdles and take ownership of achieving desired results. While this is a simple concept it requires focus to make a reality. In today’s rapidly evolving environment, organizations must grow while avoiding disruption. It’s easy for accountability to get lost amoungst everything we deal with each day.
Take for example a technology company that is updating its software in an attempt to meet consumer needs. The company launches campaigns to build consumer interest and leaders make promises about “the future of the company” in press interviews, but no one is communicating with the product team. Meanwhile, half of the product team believes improved security is the goal and the other half are focused on fixing usability issues. This lack of clarity leads to misalignment. Before long, the product launch falls behind schedule.
In instances such as this, rates of employee engagement and ownership may rise temporarily — when marketers take proactive measures to launch a high-performing campaign or product developers commit to delivering innovation at speed, for instance — but often they are directed toward different goals.
Over time, this type of environment resorts to the blame game and excuse-making. When there’s no sense of control, it becomes easy for all members of an organization to point to staffing shortages, budget cuts, hands-off leadership, and other external factors as the root of performance challenges.
An atmosphere of misguided accountability is just as harmful to an organization as no accountability at all. To realize the benefits of accountability, leaders must back to the basics.
Realizing your true impact through accountability requires clarity around your vision and a focus on empowerment. While this sounds like common sense, you might be surprised to learn that our research has revealed that 95% of senior executive teams do not effectively clarify their organizations’ top priorities—leaving employees with little understanding of how their actions impact performance. Further, nearly 77% of employees say that their company will not achieve their key results without a significant shift in the way teams think and act.
How do leaders create clarity? Boil down top objectives to three to five meaningful, measurable, memorable key results. Great leaders will establish a direct line between each employee’s work and the achievement of key results.
Consider this: the CEO of a large retailer realized during a financial downturn that he needed a significant change. He first launched countless initiatives aimed at improving individual, team, and collective performance — without progress. Shifting his approach, he collaborated with his executive team to host a string of workshops to create a culture of accountability. He tapped into the potenial of his teams by helping them see the role they each played in driving business and personal success.
It didn’t take long before veteran employees and young hires alike started exhibiting greater personal accountability. In one instance, a 19-year-old, associate noticed that the optometrists at his location had empty schedules. Rather than sit back, he found ways to address the problem. He knew there were cpatientsthat had missed their appointments or were overdue — what if he could get them to fill the empty slots? The associate took to the phone and began calling patients. Within minutes, he had secured a visit from a family of four. They came in that day, had their eyes examined, and each walked away with a new pair of glasses.
Stories like this spread across the company, inspiring others to take accountability. As a result, the company completely reversed its poor performance.
It can be easy for leaders to fall into the trap of responding to high-pressure, rapidly-evolving markets with a variety of complex initiatives. In today’s fast-paced, we all need — and crave — simplicity. A straightforward plan clears the clutter and allows leaders to focus on the root of their problems while driving growth.
We help organizations unleash the power of their culture and realize their full potenital. Our Culture Partnership helps leaders manage culture through easy-to-follow, simple models that deliver business and personal growth. We’d love to talk to you about your culture.