Organizations that perform the best are the ones that have higher degree of trust in the workplace. When people around you are operating with trust and integrity, it is a given that the culture of ownership and accountability is embedded into the value system of the organization.
Without the accountability culture and without employees taking ownership, success will always be far behind. This article pieces together valuable insights shared by Sripriyaa Venkataraman, Founder, Leadership & Executive coach- Global Coaching Lab, that will help teams and management foster a culture of ownership, accountability and reliance that will be a driver for success.
“Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organization can have.”
What does accountability mean to me?
As a business owner, manager, and leadership coach, three words I repeatedly use every single day in multiple conversations are – Accountability, Responsibility, and Ownership.
Either I bring these words during a conversation with myself (self-reflection), or I am asking these questions to my business partner to gain his perspectives, or I am asking these questions to help my coachees (leaders and managers) to address their challenges in these areas.
The questions broadly revolve around:
- How can I/we keep my/our team accountable for their commitments?
- How can I/we create a responsibility culture within the team?
- How can I/we motivate teams to imbibe an ownership mindset?
Often, I get the feeling that learning how to keep people Accountable, Responsible with an Ownership Mindset, can bridge the gap between Merit and Success for leaders and managers.
A notable story from my experiences
I want to share the story of one of my CEO clients, a successful business owner of a Talent and Leadership Solutions organization. Glen Kohli (name changed for confidentiality purposes), wanted to expand his business to address a larger client base.
Glen was a senior leader (CFO turned CHRO) in his previous role with a global multinational and currently runs his organization. Glen understands numbers, as well as people, and his clients, and found this to be his unique strength to help them address business issues as well as increase talent challenges.
Glen’s team grew from a simple two to three-member support staff to a 10-member team, which included some new business development managers and executives. Glen was working almost 15 hours per day for almost six days a week. His team was what one would call a dedicated team, aligned to his vision, and motivated by what they can all achieve together.
Although each member was a strong individual player, Glen realized that his team lacked in two critical areas:
- Collaboration and Accountability – Where they did not take initiative to keep each other accountable and had to be driven top down.
- The ability to take ownership and drive new initiatives, where every new idea came from Glen to expand the business.
This was his biggest challenge when we began his executive coaching engagement. So, I asked Glen to explain his challenge with an example.
Glen went on to explain a situation he is facing with his Sales Team. He had a few old timers who are with him for about 5 years and a couple of new experienced sales professionals. The Sales Team had a good mix of sales skill sets, yet certain differentiators like the ability to go beyond the introductory conversations and close deals independently without Glen’s help was a challenge for them. This increased pressure on Glen as he had to work doubly hard to maintain the cash flows.
Glen’s aspirations to expand the business and his current sales team’s performance were troubling him. On top of that, he had to manage the operations and marketing. This is when he said to me, “I am happy to do additional roles, but I am surprised why they have not motivated each other. And why someone has not taken ownership to drive collective team accountability.”
As an Executive Coach, I listened patiently and intently to Glen. I could sense that he felt relieved by at least articulating what was troubling him. Identifying that this was an opportune coachable moment, I asked him, “Glen, have you spoken about this with a key member of your sales team?”
Glen responded by saying, “I am so busy with clients, that I do not have the time for speaking with even one of them on this. I just have time for my weekly sales reviews with them.” I asked him, “Do you believe you can speak with one of them about this later this week?” and our conversation continued.
Creating a shift in mindset
It was now that I realized the mindset shift managers need to bring to their teams. They need to make an accountability culture in organizations and have a view to bringing success to the entire team. You need to establish accountability as the norm and not just an aspect of your business goals.
It is not about “How can I achieve my goals.” It is more about “How can we achieve our collective goals.” This is where managers need to take their employees to make them more accountable and engaged. Keeping people accountable is a skill and you need to consider their emotional intelligence and empathy levels.
The mistake my coachee was making was that he was not being vocal about the issues he was facing. Of course, it might receive a negative response from his team, and they might opt for defense mechanisms. But this will help managers enhance their maturity and display the utmost support for their teams. It works to keep the big picture in mind and keep your team motivated to achieve your desired goals.
Make your choice
At the end of the day, holding people accountable is a choice. This choice is dictated by your values and mindset. What do you strongly believe in? Do you strive to excel and have a passion for excellence? With a clear picture in mind and a determined choice set in stone, you can maximize the team’s ability to appreciate you better.
One suggestion I always give my coachees is to start with the why. Why do you wish to achieve a specific target? Why should your employees stay accountable? Why are you asking them powerful questions to hold them responsible?
Proceed to then ask the how and finally, the what. If you have the why in place, you can handle the pushback more effectively. By this, I mean the inevitable backlash your employees will give you for trying to hold them accountable.
Managers need to have the courage to hold people accountable and handle their passive aggression, lack of response, as well as the possibility that they may show their anger toward other people they work with.
Make tangible goals and tasks
Keep your tasks measurable and time-bound – this is the best way to make your team accountable. Let people know when something is due and set clear deadlines. Try to register the conversations in some textual medium you can refer to rather than having verbal conversations.
Let them know your expectations and KPIs they need to look out for. If you have these details mentioned, people will know their duties and responsibilities. You need not micromanage them and spoon-feed what needs to be done. Simply let them know what the task is, why you are doing it, and by when it is needed – and give them the space to arrive at their solutions.
It is essential to have important values and be proactive. It shows that you have the despite to expand your talent and build the right culture and mindset in your team. One person I spoke to told me that they always fire people who show poor performance. They have no time and energy to deal with their negligence.
I feel if you love your team and your people, it is more important to hold them accountable. Team members should be able to call out non-performance and demand nudges to get work done. And these nudges should come from you to always keep the team on their toes.
Reward people and incentivize them to grow
Reward teams overall for a person’s good performance. Encourage them to celebrate as a team and take victories as a collaborative effort. It will help teams work for a collaborative benefit and not just for their gains. It will inculcate the ‘we’ mindset in them rather than ‘I want to win.’
A good way to encourage people to work better would be to compare their results to their past work. Do their results meet the standards of their past standards of excellence? Is this their personal best and does it meet their desired standards? It is better to compare a person’s work with their past performance than with another employee’s work.
Finally, keep people accountable for their actions and behaviors. A person’s behavior at the workplace precedes their results. Even if they are the best lead generator in your team, they need to be warned if their behavior does not meet the mark. Qualitative accountability and quantitative accountability go hand in hand – and behaviors come under the qualitative aspects.
To close the discussion, I advised Glen Kohli to get vocal with his team. Things are not always evident and obvious. At times, you need to verbalize the obvious to ensure everyone is on the same page.
It is vital to keep your team accountable and use simple measures to turn accountability into the norm. Create a culture in your workspace where everyone can hold each other accountable and call out negligence. Welcome constructive criticism and ask people to point out acts of deficient performance.
When everyone learns to hold each other accountable while staying accountable for themselves, the culture in your workspace will improve. The quality of results will also skyrocket. Want to implement an accountability culture at your office and create high-performing teams?