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Leaders Must Be Accountable to Themselves First

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

Statistics show us that most leaders believe they have accountability covered, but, in fact, are sadly mistaken. The common ideal of a culture of accountability can only be realized when you can hold yourself accountable as a leader first.

Here are the essential principles all leaders need in order to be accountable. You might be accountable to your customers, but are you accountable to yourself? Do you regularly let yourself down or fail to live up to the standards you’ve set for yourself? You’re not alone. We have been taught to make ourselves accountable to others, not to ourselves. We can drift without accountability for ourselves.

This is a frustrating and ineffective way to run a business. There’s no one to hold you accountable if you don’t do it yourself, or have a coach do that work for you (shameless plug!) Regardless, if you are managing others, and find there are gaps in accountability, then it is necessary to slow down, and look at yourself first. Rarely is the problem solved by trying to enforce accountability in others.

Accountability Begins With The Goal In Mind

Leaders who want to improve accountability align individuals and teams toward a common outcome. Shared objectives or goals are the foundation for everything that follows. So, whether you are managing yourself, or a company of hundreds or thousands of employees, and your productivity is floundering, the first place to look is at your goals.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this goal truly inspiring to me (and then to my team)? If not, then what positive outcome or incentive would make it inspiring? Most goals require a good deal of energy and commitment to accomplish, and positive incentives such as personal growth, greater freedom, more time, increased income and additional influence are all wonderful motivators. How can you make the win worth the effort?

  2. What natural obstacles will be encountered? Life is always providing us wonderful growth opportunities in the form of obstacles and challenges. Great leaders understand this very well, and take the time to explore what those challenges might be, and develop plans for dealing with them effectively, both for themselves and with their team in advance, so everyone understands what is expected and is prepared.

  3. If the goal is truly important to me, am I making it a priority in everything I do? Many leaders will inadvertently give themselves or their teams competing goals. This spreads the work too thin and sabotages efforts on all fronts. It is a rare organization that employees are bold enough to let their leadership know the root cause of these accountability gaps.

  4. When balls get dropped, am I valuing lessons or placing blame? We have all heard the boos who asks, “What happened?” when something goes amiss. Unfortunately, this fosters a culture of avoiding responsibility and placing blame elsewhere. Instead, a culture of accountability asks: “What have we learned from this?” This simple growth mindset trick is invaluable for fostering true accountability at every level of the organization, regardless of its size.

  5. Do I provide regular accountability check points? Especially when we are making a big shift in process or behavior, either individually, or as a team, we can move too fast, skip a vital step, or do things inadvertently wrong. An important goal is worth spending some extra time to check in and look back over our plan, ensuring no steps are being missed or mishandled. This keeps things moving smoothly before there is an accountability issue.

  6. Do I favor punishment or positive communication? If you or an employee are regularly missing key metrics of success, then deprivation and criticism are the least likely methods for correcting course. The absolute first action should always be to ensure all expectations, roles, responsibilities and tasks are 100% clear. The second action is to check on motivation and priorities – which, ironically, also stem from miscommunication. Often self-dishonesty is a root cause if you are running your own business and missing key metrics. Beating yourself up over it will get you nowhere, fast.

Certainly, there are a wide array of productivity tactics and tools for scheduling and enhancing processes. However, these are sadly ineffective when the goals are unclear, are out of alignment with other priorities, obstacles are overlooked and our inner task-master takes over. Leaders have a reputation for investing in their own personal growth, and so it is vital they encourage the same culture of learning in order to create a culture of accountability.

To find out more about how to create a culture of accountability, book a Discovery Session.

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