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The Biggest Problem in Most Workplaces - And How to Fix It!

Updated: Jun 8

In my experience, accountability (or lack of) is one of the biggest problems in most workplaces. According to a Harvard Business Review study, 46% of managers were rated poorly on “holds people accountable when they don’t deliver.” And this is not just mediocre; they were rated poorly!

When there isn’t accountability, there are all kinds of negative consequences including:

  • Goals not being met.

  • Unclear priorities across the team.

  • High turnover–and your high performers will be the first to leave!

  • Low morale.

  • Low levels of trust.

What is Accountability and Why is It Important?

Accountability is defined as taking personal responsibility for performance and results, good and bad.

“Accountability builds response-ability.” Stephen Covey

And it’s true. If there isn’t any accountability, you aren’t likely to get a response–or at least not the one that you want.

What Can You Do to Improve Accountability in Your Organization?

Start by holding your managers (and yourself if you are a manager) accountable for accountability! Teach them to use the 5 C’s listed below.

The Five C’s of Accountability

1.   Clarity      

It is important to provide clear expectations (aligned with Company culture and values) and reinforce them regularly. Be clear about what you expect, the outcome you’ll be looking for, and how you will measure success every step of the way. Make sure you start communicating these expectations during the interview process and throughout the employment process.

2.   Courage

I believe that lack of courage is the main reason that accountability isn’t done well. As a leader, you must have the courage to have tough conversations. Problems will not go away if you ignore them. And if you don’t address issues, you are unintentionally affirming negative behaviors. What you permit, you promote!

For instance, let’s say that Jim has been wearing his pajamas on the morning ZOOM call. You don’t address this with him, so he continues wearing his pajamas. Then, you notice Shelia and Carla wearing their pajamas, but you can’t say anything to them because Jim has been wearing his. See how this works? You have promoted this behavior by allowing it to continue.

3.  Collaboration

Work with employees to develop goals and then ask for their feedback and commitment. If you involve employees in the process, you are much more likely to garner their commitment resulting in the successful achievement of goals.

4.  Consistency

Give feedback regularly, not just during performance reviews! Having regular one-on-one meetings with team members which include two-way feedback can help you ensure that this happens.

In addition, check yourself to make sure that you are being fair and consistent in your accountability efforts. Maybe you are having an accountability conversation with one employee about the quality of her work while another employee has many more issues with quality that you haven’t addressed. That is not being fair and consistent. Step back and do a consistency check on yourself periodically.

5.   Correction

When you have tried the other four C’s and there are still issues, you may need to move to correction which could involve counseling, disciplinary action, and/or termination.

  • “Practice accountability” is one of the habits in my book, 7 Habits of High-Retention Managers. Get it here.

  • Schedule a workshop for your organization.

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