Inspired accountability keeps everyone accountable
At BioZyme we desire a culture that drives what I like to call inspired accountability. Inspired accountability is every leader’s dream, as it is accountability that is driven from inside the individual not accountability that is driven with a whip, financial incentives, more days off or performance reviews. Sounds impossible, especially in a time in our country where accountability of anything including being nice to people seems to have disappeared.
Webster’s Dictionary defines accountability as: “the obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions.” At work, that might look like owning a mistake and sharing it as a learning experience or giving a presentation around your personal contributions and their impact.
Henry Evans, the author of “Winning with Accountability,” says accountability is “clear commitments that in the eyes of others have been kept.” Here, the phrase “in the eyes of others” is key. On teams, accountability isn’t just about making and keeping commitments; it’s also about transparency and sharing with teammates along the way. When we make our commitments visible to our teammates (through daily check-ins, quarterly reviews, an annual tool or some other format), everyone is empowered to ask follow-up questions, check on progress and help move work forward.
Fostering a culture of inspired accountability is one of the hardest things I have had to try and do as a business leader. I struggle with it daily and if I am totally transparent, I would say I am closer to failure than success. So how do I have the right to write this article? I probably don’t, but maybe some of the things I try to do to lead the accountability desired will jump start your brain and you can share back what has worked for you to help me out. Below are just a few of the items I try to keep in my head:
1. Model inspired accountability
When it comes to building a culture of inspired accountability, change starts with you. Team accountability is impossible without strong personal accountability in place first, so it’s important to first work on yourself before approaching an accountability conversation with others.
2. Set clear expectations
It may sound obvious but doing what your teammates expect of you requires clarity around what’s expected in the first place. Unclear expectations and lack of specificity create accountability gaps. To fill these gaps and reduce ambiguity, try to be as specific as possible.
3. Create a “safe space” environment
Trust and feeling safety when taking risks are foundational to building a culture of accountability.
4. Use the Accountability Puzzle
This puzzle (created by Henry Evans) consists of four pieces where each reinforces the others. When a single piece is missing, so is accountability. The four are:
- Clear expectations
- Deadlines with a specific date and time
- One owner of each task
- Sharing specific commitments with another person so we can hold each other accountable
According to a recent study in Inc magazine, 93% of employees don’t understand what their team is trying to accomplish (let alone how they can contribute to help get there), and 85% of leaders aren’t defining clear enough expectations for employees in the first place. Without accountability standards and accountability systems in place, folks will constantly struggle to know what’s expected of them to perform to their fullest potential.
This is a hard topic, but together I think we can get it done. Agriculture understands inspired accountability more than any other industry in my opinion. I mean who gets up at 3:30 am to blow out a steer or heifer, lunge a horse, feed the chickens, check the weather or markets?????