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Accountability - Why all the fuss?

I chose to write this piece now as I wanted to share my  findings where, over the years,  I have discovered a growing epidemic of the lack of Accountability within senior teams in business.

The word accountability is often over used and misunderstood and many a time I will ask the CEO if she / he has an issue with accountability in their business and the immediate reply is along the lines of –

“Oh no, we don’t have a problem with accountability here”

Then after a few probing questions it is very clear that actually it is probably one of the main areas that needs improvement.

I have found that there are 2 main aspects to Accountability that require attention:

  1. Holding Yourself Accountable &
  2. Holding Others Accountable

Both of which have huge benefits and because of this great return, tends to be challenging to implement. As I often say, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!”

Accountability essentially means 'the ability to hold yourself to account' that basically means 'the buck stops with you'.

So, let’s take a closer look at why being able to hold yourself and others to account is important and some tips on how to improve your score (also see below for more details of how you can measure this with our questionnaire)

Accountability Vs. Responsibility

This is a good point to stop and understand the differences in the two words as they are often used interchangeably, and this causes some confusion.

Simply stated, you can only have one person accountable for a task, but you can have multiple people responsible for the task. The buck stops with the accountable person who delegate responsibility to team members.

So, accountability does not mean that you must do all the work required to complete a task, but you must ensure that it is completed.

Immediately it's clear to see that accountability has value for the larger community and for those that you work with and for.


Holding Yourself Accountable

Let's take the example of achieving goals for instance. Say you want to get into shape within a certain timeframe.

Now normally you might write this down somewhere and then work quietly towards that goal. In this scenario, you have no accountability – you haven't told anyone what you're going to do and you're not going to face any repercussions if you fail.

In fact, you probably won't even be accountable to yourself really. Why? Because if you fail you'll probably make some excuse.

But now imagine a different scenario, where you announce to your family and friends that you're going to lose weight, you tell them that they shouldn't accept any excuses from you and you give yourself a penalty if you don't accomplish them.

Now you're accountable and you'll find that you suddenly are much more motivated to accomplish your goal.

It's very important to start bringing more accountability into your own life. Not only will you find that people respect you more for taking the flack, for standing up for what you believe and what you intend to do – but it will also result in you being more productive and ultimately happier as a result.

The How

When you think about yourself and how you work with your team, it is helpful to answer these two questions:

  • What is one strength that you bring to the team?
  • What is one thing you need to do differently to help the team be more productive?

This way, you will start to gain more self insights and hold yourself accountable to deliver on both.

At the same time, you should also just try to get into the habit of stopping making excuses. Hold yourself to higher standards and acknowledge that while there is always an element of luck in your success… you do still make your own luck!

Holding Others Accountable

When we look at holding other people in the team and organisation accountable we often think that this is purely the line managers’ role.

Naturally, the leader of any team must hold people who report to them accountable for completing tasks to deliver results and it is a good use of the leaders’ position power that is inherent within their role.

However, the best teams that we have worked with have a learned skill to hold each other accountable, we call this peer to peer accountability and you can find out more about this from Pat Lencioni in his work on the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, with the lack of accountability starring at number 4!

If you can cultivate an environment of peer to peer accountability within your team, you will see the following improvements amongst others:

  • Tasks and project accomplishment
  • Peoples’ behaviour and the way in which they live your core values
  • People will move out of their comfort zones to hold others accountable and as this is where change happens, it builds sustainability of the peer to peer process.

It is also important to note that where there is a lack of accountability, there is also likely to be challenges within the team on the 3 preceding dysfunctions of a team that Pat Lencioni discusses. These are:

  1. A lack of Trust
  2. A lack of constructive conflict
  3. A lack of commitment

What about dysfunction 5, I hear you ask!

Ah, well that is A Lack of Attention to Results, the downfall of many a good company as it strives to be a great company.

The reason I have picked Accountability out of the five dysfunctions is because when we survey teams before engaging with them, The Lack of Accountability always scores the lowest and, so it usually takes a while to correct and I thought it would be good to get you ahead of the game!

Let us know if you would be interested in a complimentary survey of your team on how you shape up to the Five Dysfunctions of a team Email us here

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Mike Hoff

Written by Mike Hoff

Over his years as a senior manager, Mike developed a passion for learning and development and has a reputation for developing high performing teams and managing performance, especially during challenging economic times. He has a proven strength in energising teams towards strategic goals and getting them moving in one direction, aligning them to the overall strategy of the business. Additionally Mike has been successful through his coaching and mentoring efforts, in developing individuals to their full potential. His energetic style, passion for people development and effectiveness coupled with an in depth understanding of business at both a strategic and operational level creates a unique blend.

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