Our So-Called Values Part 2 – What is accountability and how do you establish it?

The lack of measurable accountability might be the single most significant reason why organizations fail to live their stated values. When there is no, or inconsistent accountability, living your values is no longer a requirement; it is merely a suggestion.

Webster defines accountability as: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” So how do you move from that academic description to cultural practices? Here are a few insights I’ve gathered in my experience working with leadership teams in companies of all sizes.

What might be in your way:

Here are some things I know:

  • You cannot hold people responsible for outcomes when you are willing to accept their best efforts as a valid reason for not achieving goals.
  • You cannot hold people accountable for anything that you cannot define in terms of measurable results. Even if the result is subjective, you can agree on what it looks and feels like.
  • And you cannot hold people responsible for achieving anything in the absence of having them commit, rather than try to achieve whatever they are given to do. There is a huge difference between “I will,” and “I’ll try.”

Webster calls commitment a pledge. Pledges have the energy of dedication that is far stronger than skillfully voiced variations of, “I’ll do my best. Commitment says, “I will do this – no matter what.”

A great way to hone your skills as a leader and to experience modeling the commitment/accountability behaviors essential to success is through membership in a peer advisory board/group. The best groups require that their members practice peer-to-peer accountability in making and keeping their commitments to the group. Most leaders find that approach easy to model for their own teams in their respective organizations.

Where to begin:

Accountability begins with you making it mandatory that everyone is required to commit – all the time. Committing is your new cultural norm. It replaces, “I’ll try.” When you commit, when you make that pledge – taking full responsibility and being willing to be held accountable for results – becomes a natural extension of this new behavior.

Commitments must be specific, clear and understood by everyone involved as to: what (are people committing to); when it will be completed (date and time); and what the deliverable will look like.

What it means for you as a leader:

Some people will easily adapt; others will be slower; and a few will strongly resist – often in passive-aggressive ways. You, as a leader, must be unwavering in your own commitment to commitment as a new way of life.

It’s simple, direct and easy to articulate. And it works. But it’s not so simple to execute. In my next post, I’ll talk about the nature and the nuances of accountability – and how to make it a positive, welcome force for personal growth in your organization.

Stay tuned. Thank you.


Bill Leider

Bill is a Managing Partner at Axies Group – a consulting firm, focused primarily on helping leaders develop Balanced Organizations, focused on Vision, Values, Values-driven leadership, Culture, Strategy and Greater Purpose. Clients range from Fortune 500’s to mid-size companies to start-ups in many industries He has also been the CEO of both publicly held and privately owned companies. His book: Brand Delusions looks at Brands from a holistic perspective and has been critically acclaimed. You can learn more about him at www.axiesgroup.com.





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