The Necessity of Accountability
Whether you're thinking about personal or professional accountability, it all boils down to the same thing— someone who is answerable to and responsible for their actions, both positive and negative.
Accountability is a quality that many people aspire to, but how exactly do we achieve it?
We set goals with the best of intentions, but often they fall by the wayside. No one is any the wiser that we secretly planned to lose 10 lbs, quit smoking, or try for a promotion this year. So it comes as no surprise to learn that accountability that isn't shared publicly is much more likely to fail. A study produced by The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) found that you have a 65% chance of achieving your goal if you commit to someone else to complete it. Doing so rises to a 95% success rate if you expressly set up appointments to check in with someone who holds you accountable to the goal. If we know that we've made a public commitment to succeed, then we're less likely to procrastinate and more likely to put in the work required. No one likes failing publicly.
Anxiety Can Be Optimal?
As humans, we find it very easy to stay within our comfort zone; it's safe and steady. Safe and steady isn't conducive to change. Research shows that to grow, we have to be in a state of 'optimal anxiety,' stepping outside our comfort zones and stretching ourselves regularly.
Many people find that it's helpful to have an accountability partner someone who we've not only stated our goal to but who will actively support us on our journey. The choice of an accountability partner is critical. Choose someone who's not afraid to push you, support you when you need help, provide ideas for moving past blocks, celebrate your achievements, but isn't scared to hold you accountable when you're not doing what you agreed to do. For these reasons, most people choose an accountability partner outside of their family group or relationship as they're more likely to be unflinchingly honest and unbiased. It can be a friend, a work colleague or mentor, or even someone specially trained to help, like a coach. There are also accountability groups that meet regularly and check in on the member's progress. An accountability partner will make you check in periodically and record your progress. It would help if you also had specific goals that you're working towards in a designated time frame.
Equal Accountability at Work
Accountability in the workplace starts from the top down and can affect everything from revenue and growth to company culture. A recent survey by AMA Enterprise of over 500 U.S. companies about accountability found 69% of respondents at all levels said a lack of accountability damages overall performance, 55% feel co-workers resent it, and 44% report that it diminishes a sense of engagement. It can be challenging for management to hold others accountable. Ultimately it's the most beneficial thing to do for your company and the individual.
Are you keeping all your staff equally accountable or just leaning hardest on your most organized and highest achieving staff? Leaning on only the high achievers can create a culture of resentment and ultimately rewards the most valuable member of the team with more work leading to burnout. Holding everyone accountable to the same standard is one way to create a company-wide shift to better productivity and less turnover.
When creating accountability throughout a company, you need to make sure that everyone is aware of their individual goals, the long term department or team trajectory, and how their work is essential overall to the company. Staff needs to be able to hold themselves personally accountable not just during an annual review but daily. To make that possible, management not only needs to be clear about what has to be achieved and communicate that effectively but also the time frame in which it has to happen.
Accountable = Value
Fostering accountability creates an atmosphere of trust and lets employees know that their work is valued. Don't be afraid to have difficult conversations if people aren't meeting expectations. It needs to be addressed so it can be rectified. It may just be that they need more support, information, or clarification. But remember that leadership defines the culture, so lead by example, then can you expect it from others too.