The one who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it. -Lou Holtz
Often when I talk with leaders about accountability in the workplace, the conversation quickly turns to what they are doing to hold others accountable. Performance reviews, clearly defined expectations, and proper training dominate the conversation. While those are all perfectly appropriate strategies to encourage accountability, they are ineffective when leaders themselves don’t practice and model 100% accountability not just as leaders, but as humans.
This is not a topic you can cover during an intensive training and then check it off the list. While is it essential to sustained leadership, it is also a lifetime of checks and balances and it is never truly done. The good news is, every day presents an opportunity to get 100%, and that is not the case in many aspects of work life. Here are some strategies, using the acronym OWN IT, that can be applied repeatedly and will feel fresh with each situation:
1. Outline, to the best of your ability, what you expect, and what you believe is expected of you as a leader each day. Keep this very high level, no longer than one page, and post it somewhere you can read it every morning and every night to remind yourself of what matters and to celebrate your daily contributions.
2. Walk out the door each morning only after you acknowledge that leadership is a decision and you have decided you want to be defined as a leader. It seems so simple, yet deliberately choosing your path each day is one of the most powerful things you can do in your quest for 100% accountability.
3. Network with other leaders for a sense of community and support. It is common to feel isolated but sharing ideas and solutions with peers is key to enhancing accountability.
4. Initiate honest, direct communication in good times and when things get off course. Every day, use phrases like, Let’s work together; How can I help? What do you think? I am sorry, (and last but no least), thank you.
5. Take responsibility for what you commit to, so you can do what you say you will do, consistently. Most leaders are better at saying, “yes” than, “no.” This strategy is a reminder, before agreeing to new deliverables, to step back and assess your resources, time, and bandwidth. Whether you commit or say “no,” you are giving yourself insurance that you are 100% accountable, therefore, others are more sure of you as well.
Often accountability has negative connotation and holding someone accountable almost feels like a threat. In fact, the responsibility to account for one’s own actions is essential to a state of feeling free, clear, and brimming with the capacity to lead others.
Accountability makes a difference. It sets committed leaders apart from the rest because it is about striving and self-refinement for the good of the whole. Are you ready to OWN IT?