I recently had a discussion about accountability with one of my favourite clients. This company is a leader in their field. They’re good at what they do and their confidence shows. They set big goals for themselves and they’ve made great strides towards meeting them. But they could be doing even better.
Why aren’t they? Because when they deliver good results, but not the great ones to which they aspire, they let themselves off the hook. They haven’t been holding themselves truly accountable for meeting their audacious targets.
The leadership team has been working together for a number of years. They’re nice guys. They work well together, and I’m pretty sure that they consider themselves friends. That’s the challenge; how do you hold your friends and colleagues accountable for results? A good approach is to avoid making it personal by using metrics to keep everyone on track.
Accountability requires measurability. As a management team you need to have a process for measuring and reporting progress towards your targets. That way, when the numbers come up short, you can have an objective discussion about what you’re going to do about it (then hold each other accountable for the outcomes of those corrective actions!). This principle applies to you as an individual and to your direct reports – in fact it applies right across the organization.
When performance against an objective is measured, and you are holding someone accountable for the results, you must also empower them with the means to succeed. So, along with setting targets, and implementing a measurement and reporting process, you need quality resource planning. Giving someone the resources to get the job done is what cements their commitment to the results and gives you the right to hold them accountable.
I don’t want to be too hard on my client. They’ve already taken steps to develop a culture of accountability. The reason I’ve thought about this issue so much is that we face it ourselves at Stratford Managers. All through your career you hope to find the kind of people you really want to work with. It is ironic that the respect and friendship that develops between the members of your “dream team” can actually impede your mutual success if you’re not careful.
It is so easy to just cut each other some slack. But holding each other accountable for the type of success you know you can achieve together is actually a sign of respect. Treat each other like big boys and girls. Measure your progress, provide adequate resources and make sure you prompt each other to take real action to get those big results. I’d rather have a respected colleague hold my feet to the fire than let me off the hook. That’s how I know what they really think of me.