Leading through accountability takes a willingness to do a better job at recognizing challenges and accepting feedback toward positive change.
Have you ever worked with someone who can’t perform their basic job functions? Have you ever asked yourself, “Who’s holding them accountable and why aren’t they getting involved?”
In this industry, we work with unfair deadlines, demanding clients, poorly trained staff, unclear expectations, low budgets, and a lot of other stuff that’s seemingly out of our control. Or is it? One thing we have tangible control over is how we individually react to stressors, and how we affect those around us with our ability to take ownership of problems. Much of our reaction is guided by our own personal happiness. Mom always said, “Donnie, never let anyone steal your joy.” Well, now in my 40s, I have taken this to mean, “Find joy in developing others as they develop me.” If you have ever experienced the jubilance of leading someone to a fruitful understanding, you know what I’m talking about. Those who instruct, guide, and coach others toward a healthy perspective find satisfaction in so doing.
The key to all this is to keep from “falling below the line” when things go wrong. Don’t point fingers at others and don’t come up with excuses. Rather, take an active role in problem solving.
We have all been there when something happened and the first words out of our mouths were, “It is his/her fault,” or statements like, “I can’t control that,” or “It’s not my job,” or “You never told me the priority,” or my favorite: “What would you rather me focus on? Tell me what to do.” Do any of these instill confidence in either party? Absolutely not. Leading through accountability takes a willingness to do a better job at recognizing challenges and accepting feedback toward positive change.
And trust me, not owning up to your part in making things better or worse is a slippery slope that leads to poor decisions. I have found that being upfront, kind, and patient is the key to accountable leadership. Communication should also be clear and deliberate. For example, if a key goal of the firm is to decrease employee attrition by 5 percent, then you may want to walk your department heads through the “why” of the quality assurance/quality control process, and how it could increase employee engagement and ultimately win their buy-in. We each have a role to play within the realm of accountability, we just sometimes lose our “why” and create excuses for short-term losses.
There is a clear difference between doing work and working toward achieving a larger goal or result. When we at Cuhaci & Peterson figured this out, we assembled something called OKRs (objectives and key results), goals that are inherently measurable and, more importantly, achievable in a reasonable period of time. These firm-wide OKRs really helped each staff member focus on their contribution to something larger, like higher profitability and increased employee engagement. Focus people on results, empower them to decide and think for themselves, give them the tools and training they will need, and partner with clients who will take the journey with you. This makes it almost impossible to fail. Like they say, your clients are only as satisfied as your employees.
We at C&P have spent nearly 40 years growing from three people to more than 265 throughout the country serving a wide array of diverse clients. The decades have taught us how to see the need to evolve and change within the industry. Many are still under the mindset that a command-and-control culture is still effective. I say try to win the hearts and minds of your staff while calling out their errors.
Creating a culture of accountability will certainly influence the bottom line. Since we have started our best leadership practices, accountability training, and other employee-owned initiatives, we have seen a significant increase in revenue and employee engagement. We still have a long way to go, but are fully committed to following through with our effort to become successful through self-accountability.
Donald Miller is director of project management at Cuhaci & Peterson. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.