Recently our son went off to college and we dutifully provided him with words of wisdom as he embarked on his new journey. As we discussed how he was venturing off on his own, solely in charge of making his own decisions and fully accountable for the results, I couldn’t help think about what an important role accountability plays in our daily professional lives.
Accountability within an organization is critical to its success. While it is not always easy to define what you need to accomplish and how you need to accomplish it while still holding true to your organization’s beliefs in an often complex structure, there are clear steps to follow to make this less daunting to help you develop an organization built on accountability.
- Ensure that you set clear expectations and everyone knows how their work and actions contribute to this goal. While this sounds simplistic in nature, you would be surprised how many different answers you receive when asking your team, “What is the desired outcome or success criteria?” As you look to build a culture of accountability you need to ensure that everyone knows their role, how they contribute to the goal, what is expected of them and how they will be measured on the outcome. As you develop your team’s objectives make sure they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound (SMART). Be SMART when creating your objectives. It’s important to think about how the work you do directly supports your team’s goals, priorities and key initiatives. SMART objectives when deployed correctly challenge the individual and the organization to truly deliver the desired outcome.
- Embrace and contribute to a culture that drives accountability. The best example that I can give is the “OZ Principle of Accountability: A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving the desired result – to See It, Own It, Solve It and Do It.” Those organizations that allow victimization, excuses and other below-the-line behavior enable the rationalization of poor performance and ultimately poor team results. In contrast, organizations that truly hold people accountable and practice above-the-line behavior will over time develop into top performing teams that overcome the most imposing obstacles and deliver amazing results. This requires training, coaching, questioning, feedback, constant visibility and re-enforcement, along with rewarding those that demonstrate accountability.
- Center and Define the accountable behaviors that you want demonstrated within your organization because the “how” is just as important as the “what” you want to accomplish. At Kimberly-Clark, we are focused on and accountable to six core behavior areas: Build Trust, Make Decisions, Continuously Improve, Think Customer, Win Consistently and Build Talent. As individuals learn and practice these core behaviors, it is important they observe and understand the impact to the organization and imagine how it relates to their role or project. Asking for feedback on how the behavior was demonstrated and sharing these observations and learnings with your team is essential. Being accountable for these core behaviors is changing how we work and helping drive success.
- Check and Adjust. Make sure that you are constantly providing and encouraging a feedback loop on behaviors and results to understand what is working, not working, needs to change or is missing. Always be asking these three simple questions to key stakeholders:
- What are we NOT doing today that you would like to see? (START doing it)
- What activities/information/initiatives are we delivering today, spending our time and effort, which you see as adding little or no value? (STOP doing it)
- What are we doing well that you would like us to continue? (CONTINUE doing it)Hold yourself and your team accountable for the START, STOP and CONTINUE answers to these questions.
Just like we told our son as he left on his journey; your actions have consequences. Hold up to your commitments and ensure your choices reflect how you want to be viewed, own your decisions and stay true to your beliefs; in other words, be accountable. The same holds true for each of us in our professional careers.
If we can instill this same mindset and behavior regarding accountability for ourselves, for our teams and for our organizations, we will be further down the path to accomplishing great things and driving success!
*Vice President Customer Development, Grocery West – Kimberly-Clark
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.