Accountability is a commitment to follow through on what has been agreed upon and to take ownership of the outcome. This concept is at the very heart of organizational effectiveness. The most successful organizations are those in which every leader, team, and individual is fully accountable and delivers on their commitments. Here is a quick look at the 6 steps to becoming a more accountable leader, teammate, and individual contributor that we pulled from our Guide to Accountability.
1. Ensure clarity between all involved parties
Despite the difficulty in getting there, clarity among everyone involved in a project or process is required to build accountability. Without it, you increase the likelihood that there will be some finger-pointing for things going undone or being implemented incorrectly.
2. Come to an agreement
Only when you ensure that all involved parties walk away with a real sense of agreement and understanding regarding each person’s responsibilities and the expected outcomes will people take real ownership over their part.
3. Establish available freedom
Individuals can only be accountable when they understand their level of autonomy. Understanding relevant boundaries, such as how much money they can spend, what resources they can pull in, or who they need to notify at various milestones along the way, empowers them to be able to make decisions and own the outcomes.
4. Outline the consequences up front
Being accountable includes owning the outcomes of your actions—both good and bad. If you don’t own your mistakes and find ways to mitigate the negative impact or commit to ways to avoid them in the future, your team certainly won’t feel safe doing so. Making the consequences clear from the start shows everyone the importance of living up to their commitments, and helps avoid surprises.
5. Determine—and communicate—a hierarchy of action
When discussing accountabilities, it is essential to know which items should be given the highest priority. To deliver on a relatively unimportant commitment at the expense of an important one is a poor use of time. No one person can do every single thing all at once. Therefore, accountabilities must be organized hierarchically.
6. Consistently deliver on the details
In order to instil confidence that they will deliver on promises, individuals must demonstrate consistent and concrete action. Only by consistently delivering on commitments can individuals be considered truly accountable.