Encouraging accountability in the workplace

Encouraging accountability in the workplace

< Back to Articles | Topics: Trends

Contributors:

Harriette Schumacher CEO, Big Leap Leadership

Do you feel that people at work don’t do what they say they are going to do?

Are you guilty of overcommitting, or under delivering or both?

Accountability is a huge problem.

The Workplace Accountability Study recently revealed that 82 per cent of respondents have no ability to hold others accountable, but 91 per cent of people rank accountability as one of the top development needs they’d like to see at their organization. There are two big “don’ts” if you want more accountability on your team. First, don’t give advice. Giving advice is one of the worst things you can do when people come to you with problems. Yes, you read that right. When someone comes to you with an issue and you go straight into advice-giving mode, you are training people not to do the problem-solving work themselves. Advice giving can have huge consequences on a leader’s time. If the advice you give doesn’t work out well, people will blame you instead of taking accountability. Instead of telling people what to do, ask questions — and then more questions. Help the person come up with the answer to the issue themselves. End the conversation with embedding accountability — ask them what they are going to do next and by when, and watch the accountability rise.

Second, don’t validate excuses. It’s really hard not to go down the excuse lane — it’s alluring and even fun at times. Many excuses are grounded in reality. It’s easy to come up with a list of reasons why we can’t. If you want people to uncover reasons why they can, then we need to stop feeding excuses. A recent coaching client shared her frustration with me about her team not delivering projects on deadline. It seemed that every time someone came to her with a setback, she would validate it. Her true empathy was at play because she really could see the realities around them. She would say, “Oh I know the budget isn’t where it should be,” or “Oh I know it’s a hard climate right now,” or “Oh I know we do have of projects on the go right now.”

I shared with her an alternative approach which is to respond by saying, “Given that … What can you do?” Given that the budget is small. Given that the climate is competitive. Given that there is a lot going on. Embed accountability by asking the person what they can do given all the challenges.

Instead of talking about excuses, talk about solutions and next steps. Talk about what can be actually achieved. Let them decide what they can do, let them choose a solution and commit. This is the accountability context. Given the situation is what it is, what can I do about it?

At the end of the day, accountability is not something we are born with, it is something we choose. It is how we choose to live our life. This is not something you can control for anyone but yourself. You can however, create an environment where people choose accountability. Where people choose to show up fully and committed.

< Back to Articles | Topics: Trends

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