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When an organization is falling short of critical targets or struggling with under-performance, the leadership team often focuses on a seemingly obvious culprit: operational strategy. They may reassign leadership duties, allocate additional resources toward floundering projects, or form new teams to troubleshoot operational inefficiencies
Unfortunately, without a thriving Culture of Accountability®, these efforts often fail to create meaningful, lasting change. While accountability for delivering on top-line results must be a group effort, it starts at the individual level — with self-accountability.
Before anyone within an organization can take accountability effectively, every employee must understand what exactly they are accountable for achieving. That’s why accountability requires establishing clear targets around which all employees can rally and work toward together.
The first step for leaders is to define a set of three to five meaningful, memorable, and measurable Key Results that the organization must deliver on. Once these desired results are established, leaders are responsible for communicating them clearly to every employee.
By creating alignment around a shared set of objectives, individual employees can understand what they are accountable for achieving and why it matters to the organization as a whole.
Just because employees have clear targets for success does not mean that self-accountability follows naturally. What is self-accountability and how is it fostered? Self-accountability, above all, demands purposeful commitment: according to the New York Times bestselling book The Oz Principle, accountability is the “personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.”
Hitting Key Results must always begin with individuals making the proactive and continual commitment to do what it takes to achieve these results. As such, every employee must take the critical Steps to Accountability: See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It®.
See It®. This step involves seeking out and remaining receptive to feedback from peers and leaders in order to recognize existing performance gaps.
Own It®. Only once an employee sees the problem can he or she Own It, taking psychological ownership for addressing the issue.
Solve it®. When employees take ownership, they become equipped to Solve It, or demonstrate creative problem-solving in order to arrive at a sustainable path forward.
Do It®. When a powerful solution has been selected, employees can Do It — implementing the solution in order to deliver on Key Results.
When employees reach an obstacle in their journey toward Key Results, they may experience stress and feel overwhelmed. These struggles can make it easy to externalize accountability. Instead of practicing self-accountability, employees may point fingers, make excuses, or feel apathetic. These behaviors and attitudes signify that employees are rejecting accountability and hampering results.
In order to continually take accountability, employees must also commit to internalizing and owning the problems that arise, turning challenges into opportunities for growth, and proactively working to solve problems creatively and efficiently. When employees keep themselves in check and encourage their colleagues to do the same, all employees can maintain the right attitudes and behaviors to propel Key Results and bolster organizational performance.
Instead of attempting to bridge performance gaps on the organizational level through strategic and operational changes alone, focus on building a thriving workplace culture in which every employee has mastered self-accountability.
When individuals within an organization — from the boardroom to entry-level employees — take self-accountability for fulfilling their role in reaching Key Results, they collectively create a culture of accountability in the workplace. Only when all employees See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It can organizations enhance overall performance and achieve ambitious Key Results.