It is not unusual for business owners to tell me they want more accountability in their organizations.  My first question for them is usually something like “what’s keeping you from holding people accountable?”

 

I know it is easier said than done.  Driving accountability can be more difficult for some people than others.  People are afraid that holding the line on performance and values may be uncomfortable or even make them unlikable.

 

Actually, I think the opposite is true.  A culture where expected results and behaviors are known and followed is freeing.  It removes ambiguity and doubt.  It makes conversations easier.

 

If your company struggles with accountability, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I tend to avoid difficult conversations about performance and behaviors?
  • Have I set clear goals for the company?
  • Does each team or individual have specific KPIs?
  • Do the metrics we track move us toward our goals?
  • Is there dissonance between our words and our actions?

 

Once you’ve addressed any of the challenges above, you still have work to do.  Driving accountability is part of building culture.  It is not a “one and done” activity.  It takes commitment, dedication, and follow-through from leaders to make accountability a part of a company’s DNA.

According to a Gallup report, only 34% of US employees are actively engaged in their jobs.  Gallup defines “engaged” as “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.”

What about the other 66%?  13% are “actively disengaged,” and a whopping 53% are “not engaged” which means they show up and do their work but they aren’t connected to their work or their workplace.

Disengaged employees cost you money.  It is estimated that absenteeism, churn, and lack of motivation – signs of a lack of engagement – cost companies around $500 billion per year.

Writing for Small Business Trends, Victor Snyder, a business coach, says that business leaders should avoid these three things that cause employee disengagement:

  • Poor communication with employees
  • Ignoring your personal brand
  • Failing to develop leaders

If you make an honest assessment of your business, are you creating an environment that fosters engagement?

It’s true – inquiring minds do want to know, if you are talking about the people who make your business run every day.

I was reminded of this working with a client recently on some operational challenges. The client, who uses EOS, said during our discussion that it was surprising how putting a name in a box in an accountability chart gave his employees clarity.

He’s right. We forget that organizational charts, job descriptions, or a position matrix give people clarity in their roles and the roles of others.

Communicating strategy to everyone builds trust that the company has a plan for success. Scorecards inform people how they as groups or individuals contribute to that success.

Leaders can’t forget that they have access to more information about the business than other employees. Team members may feel less secure or certain about their roles and the company’s future in the absence of good communication from their leaders.

People thrive when allowed to do their best knowing what is expected and how they will be evaluated. Having the structure in place to support and guide them in decision making gives them freedom to be creative and exceed what was thought possible.

Today I read an article that called HR the department responsible “for policing personnel actions and culture.” That struck me as odd.

Culture shouldn’t be policed. Leaders model and nurture it; employees create it.

Culture is the environment and personality of a company. It is the result of thousands of interactions a day between employees in every group at every level.

If the actual culture doesn’t match the stated company culture or values, there is a disconnect that causes confusion – or worse – mistrust.  It is fine to aspire to a desired culture as long as you realize 1) the difference, and 2) that you aren’t there yet.  Mismatch between the stated and actual culture fools no one.

If no one takes ownership for building and managing culture, culture still happens by default.

HR may do things to encourage culture, but a single department can’t force a culture.  HR’s roles are to advise the leadership on issues of culture and to ensure rules and laws relating to personnel are applied correctly.

Some may argue there isn’t much difference between policing and building a culture.  I believe there is huge gulf between the two in terms of approach and attitude.  Do you want to work for a company where culture is policed or one where culture is intentionally created?