Accountability: You gotta own it

Managing in today’s world is complicated. One issue that is a growing problem is an increasing sense of employee entitlement combined with a lack of personal accountability.

Some employees come to work, do just enough to keep their jobs and then go home. Because a company’s performance is only as good as its employees, this is a serious concern. Business leaders must maximize their teams’ performance by improving personal and corporate accountability.

What is personal and corporate accountability?

Personal accountability ensures that individual actions support the achievement of the desired results.

Corporate accountability requires that leaders provide a working environment, through example and expectation, in which people can count on each other to keep their commitments and performance agreements.

To build an organization that performs to the highest standards, your management processes must create an environment of transparency and accountability. 

Create transparency

Make sure all performance is subject to the light of day. And since you can’t fix what you don’t see, make sure your organization doesn’t play hide and seek with the truth. Everyone’s performance should be compared to plan, and it should be highly visible. When actual performance is compared to plan, and made visible, this process creates the awareness necessary to make course corrections along the way.


Is personal accountability part of your corporate DNA?

Since it’s not part of our human DNA to want to stand up in front of our peers to discuss our performance short falls whenever they occur, company leaders need to understand that creating an accountable organization requires a focused effort combined with continuous reinforcement.

Creating a culture of accountability requires three things. First, the leadership team must have a process of accountability in place. This process must include the following elements: goals, controls (reports and review meetings), visibility and communications. Secondly, it’s critical to have people on your team who are truly engaged and want to be held accountable for their performance. Third, it’s important that all employees understand how their performance either adds or detracts from the company’s success. Business success and failure is a collaborative effort. If you can’t articulate who’s contributing and who’s struggling, it will be impossible to maximize the collective efforts of the team.

Periodic reviews

Periodic reviews are an important part of the accountability process. Periodic reviews give you a tool to create transparency and accountability throughout the organization. To optimize this process, incorporate the use of the four accountability questions in every periodic review. It’s easy to use. Every time a negative performance variance occurs, ask your employee team to respond to the following questions:

1.  What happened that caused the negative variance from plan?

This is an obvious question, and an important one. It requires that your teammates analyze both their behaviors and their results. Through this analysis, learning and improvement will occur. 

2.  Why did it happen? 

This question assumes personal accountability. If a negative variance occurs, and if it is your responsibility…you gotta own it. Evaluate your performance honestly and identify the cause of the problem. Are you unfulfilled in your current position so you lack motivation? Are conflicts at work getting in the way? Do you need training to improve your performance? Whatever the problem, you need to get at the root of it to get your performance up to expectations. Again, you gotta own it.


3.  What are you currently doing (empowerment) to get the negative variance back on track on a month-to-month basis?

Clearly, you need to be empowered at work to take action to address the performance short fall. Assuming that you are empowered, you must get engaged in the problem. Brainstorm different ideas. Evaluate all of the options. Select the ideas that hold the greatest promise for getting performance back on track. Agree on a plan and implement it – with the full knowledge that you will be held accountable at the next performance review. 

4.  How long will it take you to get the negative variance back on track from a year-to-date basis?

This accountability question assumes that the employee team understands that in order to meet the annual payroll, investing, debt repayment requirements, etc., each department needs to achieve their performance goals. In addition, all department heads must take ownership of their responsibility to shore up any negative variance prior to year-end.

Only when each and every employee – from the corner office to the smallest cubicle – understands performance expectations, and takes responsibility for their performance, will you have a culture of corporate accountability.



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