Critical Leadership Traits – Accountability

I am continuing my series on the top 5 leadership traits. Here’s number 3 – Accountability.

Accountability is an acceptance of responsibility for honest and ethical conduct towards others. In the corporate world, a company’s accountability extends to its shareholders, leaders, employees, and the wider community in which it operates and serves.

The key for leaders is that they need to hold themselves accountable as well as others. Accountability has to go both ways or else it simply doesn’t work. You need to walk the talk of accountability. In Kim Scott’s book, Radical Candor, the basis of the model she espouses is focused around caring personally about employees and challenging them directly. Challenging them directly is focused on accountability. It’s amazing when you see leaders wanting to hold everyone else accountable, except themselves. If that’s the case, you are doomed to failure. I have seen too many leaders who do exactly this. Bottom line, they aren’t very good leaders.

The best way to create a culture of accountability is to have solid goals for every employee. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed goals or SMART goals. This is critical. The challenge with most companies is employees do not have SMART goals. Their goals are actually dumb because they are not measurable, they are unspecific, have no time boundaries etc. The process to create SMART goals is hard, that’s why most leaders and employees avoid them. Once you do take the effort to create SMART goals it can radically change your company.
If each employee including the leaders, CEO, GM, etc. had SMART goals the bar of accountability would be significantly raised throughout the company. Goal setting should occur in the 4Q each year with only a small set of goals for each employee. I worked for an employer years ago where the CEO had 3 goals. At his town hall, he informed employees I run the company, if I have 3 goals, guess what, you can too! In some cases, that’s not realistic but in many cases it is.
The other key to accountability is to meet with employees often. I recommend a short touch base meeting with employees monthly. It isn’t a 1-hour meeting, if run correctly a touch base meeting can be 15 minutes or less. By having these meeting monthly, you show you care for the employees by listening to them and see if they need your help with any goals or projects they are working on. That’s what accountability looks like.
Creating a culture of accountability will not only help your business perform better, it will also set clear expectations regarding employees performance. The majority of employees want to have a clear picture of where they are on performance expectations. Setting SMART goals and creating the forum for accountability is the best way to have a company culture that values setting and meeting goals and being held accountable to do so.
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Small and medium-sized businesses may not have the time or expertise to implement the necessary people strategies for business success. The ideas above can be easily implemented by you to help improve the performance of your employees which leads to increased employee engagement and increasing the bottom line.

We are here to help you with the people side of your business: employee engagement, retention programs, performance management, vision, and strategic plans, leadership development, selection & onboarding, compensations programs, organizational design, employee handbooks, core values, and all things HR-related.