To ensure accountability exists, it is important to fully understand the 5 elements:
We often refer to this as ‘earning the right’ to have any conversation (Read more about: Relationships, Trust and Leadership). Regular, informal and formal discussions are incredibly important to developing trust, understanding and depth in any relationship. This is as relevant outside of the workplace as within it. Deliberately taking the opportunity to get to know other people creates the extended opportunity to understand their beliefs, interests, passions, goals etc.
Ultimately, you need to get to a point where the diversity and differences that exist between people is understood well enough to know how to hold the various, specific conversations required as a leader. This is different for each of your team members. Strong relationships have a profound impact on a person’s ability to be accountable to themselves and others, explained below through the top three ways that strong relationships influence accountability.
- Trust and Support: Effective relationships are built on a foundation of trust and support. When individuals feel trusted and supported by others, they are more likely to hold themselves accountable for their actions and decisions. This is because they value the relationship and understand the importance of maintaining it. When there is trust, individuals feel safe to take risks, admit mistakes, and seek help when needed, fostering a sense of personal and mutual accountability.
- Open Communication and Feedback: In strong relationships and personal connections, open communication is encouraged and feedback is given constructively. This creates an environment where individuals can share their thoughts, concerns, and expectations openly. Honest and direct communication allows for a deeper understanding of each other’s needs and promotes accountability. When individuals receive feedback from others who care about their growth, they are more likely to reflect on their actions, take responsibility, and make necessary adjustments.
- Shared Goals and Values: Strong relationships often involve shared goals and values. When individuals have common objectives and a shared vision, they hold themselves accountable to the collective success. The alignment of goals and values creates a sense of responsibility towards each other and the shared mission. Individuals are motivated to meet their commitments and contribute to the overall progress, knowing that their actions impact the well-being of others. The shared goals and values serve as a driving force for personal accountability.
In summary, strong relationships enhance accountability through trust and support, open communication and feedback, as well as shared goals and values. These elements create an environment where individuals are willing to take ownership of their actions, uphold commitments, and work towards mutual success. Put another way, without strong and effective relationships/connections, it is very difficult to apply a model such as this with any meaning or depth.
Expectations and standards can and do take many forms. They can be personal expectations from the leader; cultural factors or norms; team-based expectations; KPI’s and many other examples. The most critical part of this point is that it is not enough to simply deliver the expectation(s). It is critical to make sure they are clearly understood. Clarity and a full understanding of expectations play a crucial role in influencing a person’s ability to be accountable to themselves and others. Here are the top three ways in which clarity and understanding of expectations influence accountability:
1. Clear Guidance and Direction: When individuals have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, they are more likely to be accountable for their actions. Clear guidance provides a roadmap for individuals to follow, helping them prioritise tasks, set goals, and make informed decisions. When expectations are communicated clearly, individuals have a clear sense of direction, enabling them to align their actions with the desired outcomes.
2. Ownership and Commitment: Clarity of expectations fosters a sense of ownership and commitment. When individuals fully understand what is expected of them, they can take personal responsibility for their tasks and deliverables. They become more invested in their work or relationships and are motivated to meet or exceed the agreed-upon expectations. Clear expectations also create a sense of personal pride and accountability, as individuals strive to uphold their commitments and contribute to the overall success.
3. Effective Communication and Collaboration: Clarity of expectations enhances communication and collaboration among individuals. When expectations are clearly communicated, it becomes easier to collaborate with others, delegate tasks, and work as a cohesive team. Misunderstandings and conflicts are minimised, and individuals can align their efforts towards common goals. Clarity enables effective communication, as individuals can provide updates, seek clarification, and give feedback based on a shared understanding. This facilitates accountability by ensuring that everyone is on the same page and working towards a common purpose.
Clarity and a full understanding of expectations are vital in influencing accountability. They provide clear guidance and direction, promote ownership and commitment, and facilitate effective communication and collaboration. When individuals have clarity, they are empowered to take responsibility for their actions, honor their commitments, and work together towards shared objectives.
On occasion I have requested a leader to check in with a member of their team regarding what they consider are the top 5-6 things they are most responsible for in their role. Every time, there is a discrepancy between what the leader thinks they have delivered as an expectation and what the employee understands and confirms. It is not enough to tell, you must also ask, confirm and regularly check in.
Observations in essence, is an assessment of how your employee is progressing in meeting the expectations previously delivered and agreed to. It is a progressive discussion and should form a core part of the 1:1 and coaching sessions you regularly conduct.
The biggest mistake I see leaders make within this point is that they tell or give feedback in the early stages of the discussion. Feedback and your own observations are important, but so is a self-assessment from your team member, generally sought before your thoughts are provided. Think of it this way; it is potentially arrogant behaviour and is full of assumption to believe that your view of how someone else has progressed in meeting expectations is more accurate and worthy than the person performing the task.
Actions, self-feedback, and observations of progress have a significant impact on a person’s ability to be accountable to themselves and others, often reflecting these points:
1. Personal Reflection and Growth: Taking action and engaging in self-reflection allows individuals to assess their performance and progress. When individuals honestly evaluate their actions and behaviors, they gain insights into their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Self-feedback provides the opportunity to identify areas where they may have fallen short of their commitments or expectations. This self-awareness is essential for personal growth and accountability, as individuals can learn from their experiences and make necessary adjustments to enhance their future performance.
2. Demonstrating Reliability and Trustworthiness: Actions speak louder than words when it comes to accountability. Consistently delivering on commitments and following through on promises establishes a reputation for reliability and trustworthiness. When individuals consistently act in a responsible and accountable manner, it reinforces trust with others. Colleagues, friends, and family members come to rely on and appreciate the individual’s ability to fulfill their obligations. The observation of their consistent actions strengthens the person’s accountability to themselves and others.
3. Tracking Progress and Celebrating Achievements: Observing progress and celebrating achievements are crucial for maintaining accountability. When individuals track their progress, they can assess whether they are on track to meet their goals and objectives. By observing their progress, they can identify areas where they may need to adjust their actions or make improvements. Additionally, celebrating achievements along the way provides motivation and reinforcement for continued accountability. Recognizing and acknowledging milestones reached and goals accomplished serves as a positive feedback loop, encouraging individuals to maintain their commitment to themselves and others.
Personal reflection and growth enable individuals to learn from their experiences, while consistent actions demonstrate reliability and trustworthiness. Ownership of progress and celebrating achievements provide motivation and reinforcement, leading to continued commitment and accountability to oneself and others.
Ownership and accountability shifts with this type of discussion. It also provides an opportunity to understand others perspective; remove assumptions; clarify understanding; and create ownership of development. All of this deepens the relationship and levels of trust when applied with meaning.
Why and Impact is generally the most commonly missed element. Ensuring that clarity exists as to why the expectation is being discussed in the first place is important. It could be that it benefits the employee and their goals; the team; peers; bottom line; contribute to KPI’s; or any other reason for it being key to the discussion at that point. Ultimately, this point is about context.
Context and understanding the “why” behind actions have a significant impact on a person’s ability to be self-accountable as it encourages:
1. Clarity of Purpose and Motivation: Understanding the context and the underlying reasons behind tasks and goals provides individuals with a clear sense of purpose and motivation. When individuals have a strong grasp of why their actions matter and how they contribute to the bigger picture, they are more likely to remain focused and committed. The “why” serves as a driving force, fueling their motivation and determination to fulfill their responsibilities. It connects their actions to a meaningful purpose, fostering a greater sense of accountability.
2. Informed Decision-Making: Context provides individuals with essential information and perspectives necessary for making informed decisions. When individuals have a comprehensive understanding of the situation at hand, they can make choices that align with their values and commitments. Context enables individuals to consider the potential impact of their decisions on themselves and others. By making well-informed choices, individuals demonstrate accountability by taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
3. Adaptability and Flexibility: Contextual understanding allows individuals to be adaptable and flexible in their approach. When individuals comprehend the context, they can adjust their actions and strategies accordingly. They can respond to changing circumstances, unexpected challenges, and evolving needs. Understanding the “why” behind their responsibilities enables individuals to adapt and find alternative solutions when necessary, demonstrating accountability by actively seeking ways to achieve desired outcomes despite the changing context.
By comprehending the context, individuals can align their actions with the larger goals, make responsible choices, and adjust their approach as needed. This understanding strengthens their ability to be accountable to themselves and others, ensuring they remain focused, committed, and adaptable in achieving shared objectives.
Measurement, along with relationships, is the other element I have added to the original model. Being able to measure progress from a starting point, through improvement, to an end state provides many benefits. The psychological gains in seeing growth or improvement for both the employee and others is important. Understanding when things are not progressing as solidly or quickly as planned; helping to see the efforts as an investment rather than a cost; feeling the worth of this effort and the desire to keep trying; learning from mistakes and successes; and celebrating milestones along the journey are all assisted through an effective measurement process. Importantly, this can be objective, subjective, qualitative or quantitative. Some of the most powerful measurement processes relate to feedback from other team members; peers; and yourself based on observation.
Both subjective and objective measurement of outcomes and results plays a crucial role in influencing a person’s ability to be accountable to themselves and others, providing:
1. Evaluation: Objective measurements provide clear and quantifiable indicators of progress and results. They offer tangible evidence of performance, making it easier for individuals to evaluate their own accountability. Objective measurements eliminate ambiguity and provide a reliable benchmark against which individuals can assess their actions and track their progress. Subjective measurements, on the other hand, provide a more nuanced evaluation by considering personal perceptions, feelings, and qualitative aspects. This holistic evaluation helps individuals gauge their accountability beyond mere numbers and metrics, taking into account the impact on others and the overall quality of outcomes.
2. Feedback and Improvement: Both subjective and objective measurements offer valuable feedback for individuals to reflect upon and identify areas for improvement. Objective measurements highlight areas where specific targets or standards have not been met, allowing individuals to pinpoint performance gaps and take corrective action. Subjective measurements provide insights into the perception of others, offering feedback on interpersonal dynamics, collaboration, and overall effectiveness. By receiving and reflecting on both types of feedback, individuals can enhance their accountability by making adjustments, addressing weaknesses, and striving for continuous improvement.
3. Accountability to Others: When there are clear metrics, measured results/outcomes and indicators of performance, individuals can demonstrate their reliability and responsibility to colleagues, clients, or stakeholders. Objective measurements hold individuals accountable to specific goals and expectations, ensuring that their actions align with desired outcomes. On the other hand, subjective measurements emphasize the importance of being accountable to others on a deeper level. Subjective evaluations consider factors such as trust, communication, and interpersonal relationships. By considering the subjective experiences and perceptions of others, individuals can foster trust, collaboration, and accountability within their relationships.
Objective measurements provide clarity, evaluation, and quantifiable feedback for improvement. Subjective measurements offer a holistic evaluation, feedback on interpersonal dynamics, and a basis for being accountable to others. By considering and leveraging both types of measurements, individuals can enhance their self-assessment, collaborate effectively, and maintain accountability to themselves and others. You must become comfortable in managing and leading through both.
Don’t be afraid to seek and provide this detail as (particularly when respect and trust exist) a simple acknowledgement or recognition of progress can be the difference between an engaged and disengaged employee.
The opportunity to provide greater context and clarity for people is one that I regularly see could be improved in most organisations. It is critical when maintaining accountability in leadership.
Read more: Challenges to Leadership
Depth and substance in coaching and 1:1 sessions is important. A tool such as this can make a real and sustained difference when applied. Each step is important and has its own need. Practice the art and science of effective leadership by using tools such as this. When you consider the option, there is little to lose in trying and much to gain.
Feel free to use this model to the advantage of your team, organisation and self.
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