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The ‘7 Great’ Accountability Skills For Business Success

By Darren Finkelstein
By Darren Finkelstein

The Accountability Guy®

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The '7 Great' Accountability Skills For Business Success (1)

How is the issue of personal accountability viewed in your organisation? Seasoned workers have undoubtedly seen their share of finger-pointing and dishonesty.

However, personal accountability is a critical step toward improving leadership. When people are accountable for their own decisions, work, and results, the effectiveness of an organisation can greatly increase.

One of the greatest issues in accountability stems from the amount of control people actually possess in their work. When employees are in control of the what, when, and how of a decision, their accountability is sky-high. On the other hand, when others are in control of how work gets done, accountability significantly decreases. Studies on control and influence in autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire organisations show that the most effective organisations have teams where everyone feels they have influence. When people feel like their voice is heard, their investment in their work increases far more than when they’re being told what to do and exactly how to do it.

The second issue we researched was the way leadership behaviours could promote a greater sense of accountability in others. Intuitively, leaders might think that demanding accountability, letting others make the decisions, or giving pep talks would make the difference. However, our experience is that none of these tactics work very well and all are suboptimal choices. Instead, we looked at 360-degree assessments from 40,000 leaders and examined leaders who scored in the 90th percentile on effectiveness for accountability. When I looked at these exceptional leaders’ behaviours I found eight that were linked to high personal accountability.

They are as follows:

1. Drive for Results
Sometimes in organisations, it is really hard to focus. When we are sending multiple messages about what is critical and what others are accountable for, accountability dissipates. If you want people to be responsible, then you must clearly define the results that you want them to deliver, and let them have a fair amount of control on how they deliver those results.

2. Honesty and Integrity
When your boss asks in a company meeting, “how’s that project coming?” do you honestly reply, “we are really behind” or “pretty good?” Those who are accountable have the courage, to tell the truth. This courage is often reinforced because people see their managers being open and direct with them.

3. Trust
Back in 2014, Joe Falkman (writer for Forbes) undertook some research on a set of leaders who were not trusted and found their employees had the following issues:

  • They were not confident that my efforts will be rewarded
  • They suspected the leader may take advantage of me
  • They constantly question the leader’s motives
  • They are sure their managers will take credit for my accomplishments

These are not factors that will build accountability. In contrast, the three pillars that build trust are positive relationships, knowledge, and consistency of leaders.

4. Clear Vision and Direction
There is an old Chinese proverb that explains this issue well: “The hunter that chases two rabbits catches neither one.” In organisations, people are often chasing multiple rabbits and they don’t catch any of them. How can you expect people to be accountable if they aren’t absolutely clear about the organisation’s vision for where they’re going and what needs to be accomplished? Clearly, you can’t.

5. Problem Solving and Technical Expertise
It is impossible to feel accountable when a person is confused and doesn’t know how things work. Teach your people the skills and give them the training they need, and make absolutely sure they know how to do the job you expect.

6. Communication
When a leader can effectively communicate, others can understand what they are accountable for. This requires being able to tell, ask, and listen to others.

7. Ability to Change
We found that people who are really good at creating change in an organisation had employees who are operating at higher levels of accountability. Leaders who are good at instituting change are effective at the following behaviours: accepting feedback, taking on challenges, innovating, spreading optimism, showing concern, and setting clear goals.

On the long personal and organisational “to do” list, accountability should be at the top of the list. If you see a fatal flaw in yourself or your current leaders on any of these seven points, you should address it immediately.

In fact, the single greatest way to leverage accountability is to pick a few of these key behaviours to work on yourself. Why? The research is clear on this issue: great accountability in the organisation begins with you.

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If you need help with your business, I work with entrepreneurial business owners, executives and their teams to ensure full accountability so they can meet obligations, promises and commitments made to others and themselves. My name is Darren Finkelstein, Business Coach, Advisor and Presenter.

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