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Have you ever heard the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody? If you haven’t, take a look at the tale below:

“There was an important job that had to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. 

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. 

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. 

In the end, Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”

Several issues can be identified in this short story. Finger-pointing, blame, and lack of ownership are prevalent, yet the most noticeable theme in the story is the lack of accountability within the group. World-class organizations have a clear culture of individual accountability. The ability to possess a true culture of accountability, however, happens only when individuals in a company are compliant with the strict demands of accountability on every level.

It’s not enough for only certain departments or teams to follow this culture while others fail to do so. For organizations to perform at their full potential, each employee must feel the need to be personally accountable for their work. They need to have a mindset of consistently delivering on their commitments.

One of the biggest problems with accountability in the workplace comes from the level of control people possess in their job. Employees who are in control of the whats, whens, and hows of a decision must have increased accountability. On the contrary, accountability tends to decrease significantly when others are in control of how work is completed.

According to several studies, organizations are the most effective when their teams feel that they have an influence. People who feel that their voices are being heard have more investment in their roles and will go above and beyond their responsibilities.

The behavior of those in leadership can also promote a sense of accountability in employees. Instinctively, some leaders believe that demanding accountability, providing pep talks, and allowing others to make decisions is extremely impactful.

These choices, however, are usually suboptimal and don’t always work well. Leaders who possess a high level of personal accountability typically rely on the following behaviors:

Clarity When Defining Results

There are times in an organization when it can be very hard to focus. There’s no use in simply telling people what’s important and what to be accountable for. 

If you want people to become responsible, then you have to be clear when defining results. Let them know exactly what you want them to deliver and give them a fair level of control on how they can deliver these outcomes.

Upholding Honesty and Integrity

When the boss asks for an update on how a project is going, do you provide an honest answer whether it’s good or bad?

Accountable people are not afraid of telling the truth. This courage is usually reinforced when people see their leaders being open and straightforward with them.

Developing Trust

A study was carried out on a group of leaders who weren’t trusted by their employees. Their subordinates had the following concerns:

  • They weren’t confident that their efforts would be rewarded
  • They suspected that the leader was taking advantage of them
  • They constantly questioned the motives of their leader
  • They believed that their leader would take the credit for their accomplishments

These factors are not going to develop accountability or compliance in an organization. In contrast, having knowledgeable, consistent, and positive relationships with employees are the three main pillars of building trust.

Having Clear Vision and Direction

You may have heard of the following Chinese proverb: “The hunter that chases two rabbits catches neither one.” In many companies, people are often going after multiple rabbits and end up with no results.

You can’t expect employees to be accountable when they have no clear understanding of the company vision or what exactly needs to be accomplished. Having clear vision and direction from the start is critical for accountability.

Problem Solving and Technical Expertise

Being accountable is impossible when an individual is confused and doesn’t know how things work within an organization. It’s important to train your employees with the skills they need to accomplish the job. Ensure that they know how to do the job you expect of them.

Using training management software can provide companies with a centralized knowledge base that can speed up this process. Some programs also provide a training tracking capability to monitor the progress of everyone involved.

Effective Communication

Leaders who can communicate effectively can relay to others the things that they’re accountable for. This role requires being able to ask, tell, and listen to what others have to say.

Identifying and fixing communication problems can help team members to be accountable for what they do.

Ability to Make Changes

Leaders who possess the ability to create change in a company tend to have more employees working at higher levels of accountability than others. People who are skilled in instituting change can effectively take on challenges, spread optimism, set goals, and innovate.

Being Able to Collaborate and Resolve Conflict

One of the hardest skills for leaders to master is collaboration within an organization. Researchers have learned that people who collaborate with one another are more successful than those who just want to compete. Cooperation results in accountability.

Accountability is Essential

As stated earlier, world-class organizations are those with employees who hold personal accountability highly. This culture of accountability can only be instilled when leaders first demonstrate it themselves. From there, they can start demanding accountability from others.

For this to happen, any expectations have to be clear and goals agreed upon. Leaders must also participate and follow-through with their agreements. The behaviors listed above are all teachable and can be mastered over time with practice.

Any individual, including leaders, can take advantage of ongoing training. Investing in training management software, for instance, can equip supervisors, managers, and executives with the right skills to help others achieve the highest levels of accountability.

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