Business owners commonly express the need for more accountability. I have found leaders actually mistake other issues for a lack of accountability. Leaders build accountability over time using what I call the 4 C’s.
Clarity – Sometimes people mistake accountability for clarity. People and teams can’t be held accountable if their goals and responsibilities aren’t clear. You must provide clarity before you can have accountability.
Communication – Team members need to know they can have an open dialog with their manager to discuss issues and ideas. Likewise, leaders must make themselves available to their teams on a regular basis in both group and one-on-one settings. Lack of communication can lead to culture and accountability issues.
Coaching – Some managers and leaders struggle with having difficult conversations with team members who aren’t meeting expectations. People can’t improve without knowing where they fall short. It is the leader’s responsibility to identify inadequate performance or behavior early and help their team member correct it before it becomes a problem.
Consequences – Sometimes managers jump straight to applying consequences when they ask for accountability. You have to check yourself on Clarity, Communication, and Coaching first; otherwise, you risk creating a culture of fear. Fear is the result of people facing consequences without knowing why or being given the chance to improve. If you have the other three C’s and have built a strong culture, positive peer pressure may address some issues organically on its own.
Accountability isn’t a system or an action. It is a culture. Leaders build accountability by consistently providing clarity, having meaningful communication, proactively providing coaching, and only then having consequences if the team isn’t self-correcting.