Cultivating a Culture of Accountability
I have heard people say over the years, “some people are naturally accountable and some aren’t and you can’t change people.” What a sad way to look at work and at people. Generalizing is never a good idea. Unless you “raised” the team members who look to you for leadership, you probably don’t fully understand their history, their motivations and what drives them to do their best. That’s why it is important to get to know your team members individually and cultivate the right culture.
To cultivate a culture of accountability, you need to have some important basics in place:
- Clear, measurable, individual goals
- A clearly articulated rationale behind why the goals are what they are and need to be met
- Flexibility in how the goals are achieved by each team member
- Open communication and regular updates with and to the team as things shift and change so they understand the “big picture” at all times and don’t feel left in the dark
- Recognition of successes, large and small
- An opportunity to “listen” to feedback from the team and the flexibility to make adjustments when possible and needed or a good explanation as to why you can’t
Once goals are established, do you really care how each person achieves their goals? Different people work differently/take different routes, but can still come out at the same place. Part of keeping a job interesting is allowing people to express themselves through their work. That may mean different pathways to the same destination. There is no need to micromanage the work if the goals are clear and being achieved.
I have found that when a team understands their objectives and they know the “big picture” or the reason the objectives “are what they are”, they feel empowered to make sure they are achieved. It is up to the management to ensure the right elements are in place to create a culture of accountability: transparency, trust, two-way communication and understanding, recognition and individuality. The majority of team members, in a culture of accountability, will do more than is expected of them – often much more. They will work extra hours to get the job done, go the extra mile with the customer, and always strive to represent the team and the company in a positive manner.
Creating a team with a culture of accountability can be the most rewarding thing a supervisor or manager can do. We spend more time at work than anywhere else, and if you can have a role in making that time fulfilling and rewarding, you have impacted the lives of your team members, their co-workers and your customers in a positive manner. It all starts with the culture you decide to create with your team and may mean extra work for you up front but it is all worth it when you see the commitment coming from your team members.