When a CEO or senior exec says to you, ‘I need to see more accountability from people in our organisation” what do they really mean?
Nine times out of 10, what they really mean is, “I want to see people following through. I need to see people doing what they say they are going to do. I want to see people taking actions that will drive results.” It could also be that leaders want to see people admitting errors and being more transparent, but most of the time it’s simply that they want to see people getting things done.
What can we do to drive accountability with our people? What is it that makes some organisations full of people who are accountable and others who aren’t? While this could spiral into a discussion on culture, (accountability being a key element of culture), for now, we’ll keep it focused on top practical tips to encourage accountability in your workplace.
- Focus on creating self-accountability above accountability to others – I’ve been on this bandwagon for YEARS. When someone feels accountable to someone else, it‘s an external driver which always needs to be in place to drive that accountability. This means it often becomes nagging or hassling someone to follow through rather than something that is internally driven. Daniel Pinks’ work about motivation and his great book “Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us” provides real clarity on the importance of intrinsic motivation. You could also look at the work of Deci and Ryan and the self-determination theory, which highlights autonomy, competence and relatedness as key to motivation. It’s important to let people choose how they want to be held accountable. One of my favourite questions in Coach M* is “How will you hold yourself accountable for following through on an action that users have set themselves?” People have a choice as to whether they watch the video, or if they can answer the question easily, they go straight ahead. For a sneak-peak behind the scenes, you can watch our accountability video here.
- Change methodologies have long talked about the importance of getting people clear on “the why” of a change or a goal – why an organisation is wanting this to happen and why people need to buy into it. The key is to make the why personal to the individual – and not by you telling them why it’s important, but by getting them to work out for themselves why it is important to them. “Why do I want to hold myself accountable to following through on this action, goal, task, or topic? What will it mean to me?” Capturing anonymous data around this can also be really helpful for organisations – it can help identify if your organisational change initiative is going to work – whether that’s a digital transformation or a methodology shift, the more you have visibility into why or why not people feel it’s personally important to them, the more you’ll be able to identify risks and possible failures before they happen. To get the data, I wouldn’t recommend sending out a survey that will get a 25% response rate! Reflective focus groups could be one way to tackle this; a chatbot* is another.
- Time and priority management can often be the key to helping people. Often when people don’t follow through it’s for completely “normal” reasons: they are busy; it never got to the top of the to-do list; they intended to do it but just got distracted. If the WHY is strong enough, that will often overcome the prioritising issue.
- Barriers – what type of accountability your organisation is searching for? What types of things are people NOT following through with that your organisation wants them to? Is it about accountability or is it about being scared to fail? Is it a skill or knowledge gap? Really find out what are the barriers to accountability so that you can create a process or mindset that will help people overcome this.
- Quarterly “rocks” or action plans help keep people focussed and certainly drive accountability. The key to success with this method is having a way to follow up on the action plan so it doesn’t just become a piece of paper that gathers dust. Managers, of course, can do this – and it will work as long as it’s in a supportive, ”I want to help you hold yourself accountable” way rather than a “rap on the knuckles if it’s not done” kind of way! Or you could consider a coaching chatbot like Coach M*!
Ask yourself what you are going to do to drive accountability in your organisation. What steps can you take to understand the problem more? Once you’ve got that, craft a plan, and follow-through.
*Coach M chatbot references – I’m making the assumptions that readers of our blog will know what Coach M is, but of course, that’s a big assumption. If you’re new to our world, welcome and do check out Coach M. Coach M is a conversational intelligence designed as a behavioural change tool – it drives accountability. Designed initially to work post-learning Coach M is now supporting quarterly action plans, professional development goals and a whole host more. Reach out if you would like to know more or experience a demo.
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