Many organizations are suffering from a lack of accountability. In the effort to move away from a blame culture, we have gone too far to the other extreme by not holding people accountable for their commitments.
BusinessDictionary.com defines accountability as:
“The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.”
Notice the key words “account for its activities”, “accept responsibility” and “disclose transparently”? Years of blaming people has resulted in a backlash, making managers afraid of confronting employees when commitments are not met. Your organization won’t move forward if people are not holding themselves and others accountable for getting things done.
Are You Accountable?
When you say “I’ll send you that document.” or “I’ll find that information for you.”, do you follow through on that commitment? In our fast-paced environment, people volunteer to do things with little thought about their ability to actually deliver. Are you someone who is always willing to volunteer? Ask yourself how often you follow through on those tasks. When you promise to follow up, do you remember your offer? Do you hear yourself saying “oh, sorry, I forgot about that”? It is easy to say you’ll do something and immediately forget you promised it. How many times have you done this? How do you feel when someone else fails to meet a commitment to you?
Hold Yourself Accountable
Start holding people (including yourself) responsible for promised commitments. Either don’t volunteer to help, or follow through when you do. How can we hold our selves accountable? This is simple discipline. Write down the commitment on your to do list, or on your calendar. One of the best ways of actually doing what you say, is to make the commitment for a particular day and time. “I’ll get that document to you this morning, after this meeting.” “I’ll send that to you by Friday end of day.” Act on your offer immediately if possible. The more time that passes, the less likely you will remember your commitments. Encourage people to hold you accountable if you don’t meet your commitments. When someone reminds you of a promise, thank them for the reminder and apologize for not following through. I find it embarrassing when someone has to remind me to complete a task which I committed to, do you?
Hold Others Accountable
Although it is unpleasant to point out someone else’s mistakes, we need to hold our employees, co-workers, and managers accountable also. Politely, unemotionally remind people of their commitments. This is critically important when you are a manager or mentor, it is your responsibility to help people develop their skills and discipline is a key skill. Proactively let others know that you will hold them accountable. Getting people to commit to a completion date is the best way to enforce accountability. “As soon as possible” is not a commitment. At the end of a meeting or conversation review commitments made during the meeting. “John, you said you will send the forecast to the group, when will you be able to do that?” Get John to commit to a date. After a meeting send out the “to do” list with names and due dates. Review it at the next meeting.
When someone misses their commitment point it out and ask for another commitment. Asking the same person for the same deliverable multiple times is unpleasant, you may feel like you are nagging. But others who are waiting for the work will appreciate your behavior. People who work with you on a regular basis will pay more attention knowing that you will hold them accountable. People who don’t want to be held accountable will try to avoid working with you — which can be great because they are not the people who get things done so you probably won’t miss them!
With all the work our organizations are trying to accomplish, getting things done requires discipline. Being accountable to yourself and others makes you a valuable worker and increases the likelihood of organizational success. Ask others to hold you accountable, hold everyone accountable (including yourself), and you’ll be amazed how much work gets done!