A Culture of Accountability
By Beth Standlee, CEO, TrainerTainment
I think most organizations dream of having a highly accountable culture. However, many times it may feel like, “If I want it done right, I’ll have to do it myself.” It may be something as simple as wanting team members to be accountable for their shift and show up on time. In today’s employment climate, it seems as if owners and managers want to do everything they can to hire and retain an employee but holding team members accountable for their performance may feel risky. I believe your team is your most valuable business asset and the better they perform, the more your business will succeed.
I’d like to encourage you to know that accountability isn’t about punishment. It’s not about an “I gotcha!” I would even go so far as to suggest that people want to understand their contribution and to be held accountable for their performance. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” This seems very straightforward to me.
Early in the year, I was reminded of a quote by Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture. He said, “When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.” This concept hit me in the face. Sometimes, there are things I commit to that I don’t get done. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m busy, life is difficult, other things become more important and I find myself putting out fires. I suspect you recognize some of these statements and could add some others to the list. And in thinking of myself in a leadership role, I’ve realized the message I must be sending when I don’t hold others accountable is that I don’t believe they can do it. UGGGG!
Potentially, someone may be relieved if they aren’t being held accountable. However, I know it doesn’t help them (or me) grow. So, what do we do now? I don’t think I can do justice in one short article to share all there is to know about accountability. But I will take a stab at four key elements that are brilliantly outlined in Henry J. Evans’ book, Winning with Accountability. It’s a short read and worth a look if you want to dive deeper.
Communication is a key factor in sharing your vision of accountability for team performance. With communication in mind let’s take a look at four elements of having a culture of accountability.
Make sure you are going beyond generalizations. As an example, you might say, “I want to make sure our guests receive excellent service.”
Hmm, the employee might think, “What does that mean? They told me to make sure the tables were clean, the trash is taken out, and the bathrooms are checked every 30 minutes.”
See how the generalization of “make sure all guests receive excellent service” might not be an accountability opportunity for that employee?
What should you do instead? Clarify. Excellent guest service happens when each team member fulfills his daily duties and speaks to a guest whenever he’s within arm’s length of one. An excellent team member anticipates a guest’s needs by watching the fun –– or “not fun” –– a guest might be having and intercepts with a kind word or assistance that could elevate their experience.”
Key Element #2 – Specificity: In communication, there is the sender who shares the information and the receiver who hears what was said. I think we’ve all had the experience of those two things not matching up at all! An accountability gap often occurs when the boss says something like, “I need your expense report.” Does that mean, right now or whenever I can get to it? It’s difficult to hold others accountable if we aren’t specific.
What to do instead? Specify. Instead, say, “I need your expense report by 4 p.m. today.” Now, it’s up to the employee to either reply that they will meet that deadline or, if they know the ask is something they can’t complete and you’ve built a highly accountable environment, they will say something like, “I can’t get to it by 4 today but I can meet that deadline tomorrow.”
Key Element # 3 – Share/Go Public: I have a terrific experience to relate. When I needed more accountability to meet an exercise goal, I went very public with a self-assigned, 100-day walking challenge: I put it on Facebook! I don’t think you normally have to tell the world what you want to be held accountable for but inviting an accountability partner to help you along the way can increase your productivity and performance in a way that might not be possible alone.
Key Element # 4 – Take Ownership: Help others know –– and know yourself –– that you and they are accountable for their performance. An accountable culture becomes real when there is a commitment to provide clarity of the vision, specificity of what winning looks like, an invitation to share goals by asking for an accountability partner and ultimate ownership of success and performance.
I am constantly working toward the opportunities that are available in a highly accountable culture. I invite you to share your experiences and goals and let’s see if we can drive our performance and others’ higher and higher!
Beth is the CEO of TrainerTainment LLC, a training company devoted to the family entertainment and hospitality industries. Beth and her team are focused on helping the companies they serve to make more money through sales, guest service, leadership and social media marketing training. Training products and services are delivered in person, through books and DVDs, and virtually with e-learning courses, webinar development and 24/7 online access. Visit her company’s website at www.trainertainment.com.