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How to Build a Culture of Accountability


2015 – Another year and another opportunity for change, prosperity, and resolutions. This isn’t a blog about the benefits of setting goals or even how to do so. I have a feeling there’s already too many of those – a Google search shows more than 176 million. Also, studies show the majority of people have already given up and thrown in the towel on what they hoped to accomplish by January 10th. The reality is while most of us have resigned ourselves to more of the same personally, our employer and coworkers will be a little more demanding. This year you will be faced with several business goals or initiatives. You won’t always have the luxury of giving up nine days in. So, how can you be successful? Establishing a culture of accountability can take your great team and make them unstoppable.

What is accountability? The word itself brings up painful memories of blame, failure, finger wagging, and “I told you so.” However, it doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be a response to something going wrong. Accountability should be something we all commit to, as a way to prevent something from ever going wrong in the first place. In order to get your team to fully buy in, you must first change the stigma of accountability and turn it into a positive. Everyone is working towards the same goal and vision. Group accountability will keep us on target.

There are some common pitfalls with accountability and most can be corrected with clear expectations at the beginning. First, let’s talk about who owns the project. More often in team meetings, I hear “we.” We need to make these changes starting today. We need to have the contract over to our client. We need to land new business. Sounds productive, right? Everyone is pumped about these changes and new business. However, who is doing what? When or if that doesn’t happen, where did the responsibility ultimately lie? Only one person can be the owner of a task, not a team. The buck stops with that person.

There is also a growing lack of specificity in how we communicate with each other. We give or take directions that are filled with “do a good job on this” or “turn the report into me ASAP,” but we never clearly define what would constitute a “good job” or when “ASAP” becomes too late. Slow down and clearly bullet point what the project or task should look like when it’s completed. What specific expectations do you have? Eliminate ASAP and it’s many forms including “soon,” “right away,” and “later today.” Instead, have a definitive “by Wednesday, January 14th @ 3:30 p.m., Central Standard Time.” See that – absolutely no room for any other interpretation!

Finally, when giving direction or assigning a task, it is the onus of both parties to make sure they are on the same page with specific expectations. However, instead of just asking the person to repeat back what you said and risk it sounding condescending, try this. Ask them to paraphrase what they heard you say; maybe even have them send you an email recap. If they can mirror back the main points, you both will walk away knowing how their contributions will impact overall success. That’s not delegating, it’s empowering!

It’s exciting when everything comes together. Now that everyone understands what the goal is, how it’s going to be accomplished, and by what time, there’s no room for anything to slip through the cracks. If something needs to be evaluated or resources shifted, you have the ability to do that in order to achieve your goal, rather than as an excuse for why you were not successful. Professionally, I look forward to all of our 2015 achievements. Personally, 2016 just may be the year I lose 20 pounds!

Brad LewisBrad Lewis
Brad joined Celebrity in 2005 and currently serves as sales manager for Celebrity’s Kansas City branch office. Prior to joining Celebrity Staff, Brad was a business consultant in the communications industry for five years working specifically in the Kansas and Missouri districts. As sales manager, Brad concentrates on ensuring excellence in the overall operations of the Kansas City branch for both clients and employees. Outside the office, Brad enjoys spending quality time with his wife, Danielle and their two sons, Kobe and Eli.

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