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Matt Somers

Matt Somers Coaching Skills Training Ltd

Founder & Managing Consultant

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There’s no use crying over spoiled milk: How a lack of accountability is diminishing your business results

How a culture of accountability plays a significant role in achieving results.
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Lack of accountability is a problem that bedevils so many businesses.

When people aren’t performing, we typically look at training or motivation – the classic question of skill or will.

But so often the problem is cultural, and sometimes it boils down to people simply not being held accountable for achieving a result.

It seems organisations that excel are built upon a culture of accountability, where every member of the team takes ownership of their work and results.

While the traditional approach might be to attribute poor performance solely to a lack of training or motivation, it’s crucial to recognise that a culture of accountability plays a significant role in achieving results.

Preventing stagnation

The accountability paradox arises when employees are not held responsible for their outcomes.

In such an environment, even motivated and well-trained individuals might struggle to perform at their best.

This is because when employees perceive a lack of consequences for subpar results, the urge to deliver a quality result diminishes.

Instead of striving for greatness, they may settle for mediocrity, leading to stagnation in both individual growth and business progress.

It’s the quiet quitting we’ve come to hear so much about lately.

 

The accountability paradox arises when employees are not held responsible for their outcomes. In such an environment, even motivated and well-trained individuals might struggle to perform at their best

How coaching can promote accountability

  • Clear expectations

The foundation of accountability lies in setting clear expectations. Each team member should have a thorough understanding of their role, responsibilities and the expected outcomes.

Regular communication is key to ensuring that employees are aligned with organisational goals and understand how their contributions impact the bigger picture.

  • Goal setting

Collaboratively set achievable goals that challenge individuals to step out of their comfort zones.

When employees are involved in goal setting, they become more invested in the results and are more likely to hold themselves accountable for achieving them.

  • Ownership mentality

Encourage employees to view their work as if it were their own business.

This sense of ownership instils a proactive approach where they take pride in delivering quality results.

Highlight the personal growth and development that can arise from this mindset shift.

When individuals feel empowered to make choices, they become more invested in the outcomes and are more likely to be accountable for their decisions

  • Feedback and recognition

Constructive feedback and recognition play pivotal roles in fostering accountability.

Regularly acknowledge and celebrate achievements, but also provide timely feedback on areas that need improvement. This encourages a culture of continuous learning and growth.

  • Empowerment through autonomy

Grant employees a certain degree of autonomy in decision making.

When individuals feel empowered to make choices, they become more invested in the outcomes and are more likely to be accountable for their decisions.

How to cultivate accountability

  • Lead by example

Accountability starts at the top. Leaders must model the behaviour they expect from their teams.

When leaders demonstrate accountability in their actions and decisions, it sets the tone for the entire organisation.

  • Transparent communication

Foster open and transparent communication channels where employees feel comfortable discussing challenges, seeking help and sharing progress.

Transparency eliminates confusion and prevents the spread of blame when things go wrong.

  • Performance management

Develop a performance management system that considers both results and efforts.

Reward not only successful outcomes but also the dedication and hard work invested, even if the results fall short.

At the risk of sounding a bit ‘The X Factor’, this sends the message that accountability is about the journey as much as the destination.

Foster open and transparent communication channels where employees feel comfortable discussing challenges, seeking help and sharing progress

  • Consequence management

While accountability should not be reduced to solely punitive measures, it’s essential to have a framework in place for addressing repeated instances of poor performance.

Consistently failing to meet expectations should have consequences, balanced with coaching and support to improve.

The benefits of accountability

By fostering a culture of accountability, businesses stand to gain numerous benefits:

  • Higher performance

When employees take ownership of their work, they are more likely to go the extra mile to ensure excellence. This leads to improved overall performance and enhanced productivity.

  • Innovation and growth

A culture of accountability encourages employees to innovate and seek new solutions.

The freedom to make decisions and take calculated risks drives creativity and fuels business growth.

  • Employee engagement

Feeling accountable for their work fosters a sense of belonging and engagement among employees.

They become invested in the organisation’s success and are more likely to stay committed for the long haul.

When employees take ownership of their work, they are more likely to go the extra mile to ensure excellence. This leads to improved overall performance and enhanced productivity

  • Trust and collaboration

Accountability nurtures a sense of trust among team members. When everyone is responsible for their part, collaboration thrives and teams work seamlessly towards common goals.

I was chatting about all of this to a client last week and explaining that one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that a lack of personal accountability can throttle even the most beautifully planned change programme.

“Ah,” she said. “Let me show you our fridge.”

Intrigued, I followed to the employee rest area where she opened the fridge door to show me two or three bottles of milk, long since past their best, with signs of green mould and an unmistakable pong.

She said that no one ever bothered to deal with the rotten milk, they would just leave it there and open a fresh one. It had been mentioned in staff meetings, but people had said:

  • “Not my job”
  • “They should do it”
  • “I thought I’d do something if it was still there tomorrow”

And so on.

Although everybody at the meeting agreed that it was horrible, and someone needed to do something.

With a sigh, my client began emptying the bottles and I helped, although we knew it would soon be the same again as she was only there that day to meet me, and it would be weeks before she was back in that office again.

This is what a lack of accountability looks like and if it’s spoiling the milk it’s spoiling business results too.

If you enjoyed this, read: Why a coaching culture is about accountability, not control

 

Author Profile Picture
Matt Somers

Founder & Managing Consultant

Read more from Matt Somers
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