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6 Practical Ways to Create an Accountability Culture in a Company

6 Practical Ways to Create an Accountability Culture in a Company
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Accountability is an odd concept. It has been defined as having the responsibility and authority to act and fully accept the natural and logical consequences for the results of those actions. Personal accountability is an admirable trait, one that everyone should strive to attain. But as a leader, or even as a high-functioning member of a team, it is essential to create an accountability culture for individuals and the group as a whole.

While some may attach a negative air to the word accountability, research indicates that holding people accountable for their results has very positive effects: greater accuracy of work, better response to role obligations, more vigilant problem solving, better decision making, more cooperation with co-workers, and higher team satisfaction.

At its foundation, the tips for creating an accountability culture are S.I.M.P.L.E.:

  • Set expectations
  • Invite commitment
  • Measure progress
  • Provide feedback
  • Link to consequences
  • Evaluate effectiveness

But as it goes with all foundations, there must be a firm structure added in addition to having a complete building. Here are several additional tips to help build an accountability culture in a company:

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Set expectations

It is important to set firm, clear, and concise expectations for any group. Accountability will not grow where team members are unsure of the group’s purpose and vision. Teams need to know what is expected of them before they in turn can be expected to be held accountable.

You can set expectations by:

  • Clearly communicating the team’s mission and vision.
  • Emphasizing the urgency and importance of whatever task you have assigned.
  • Laying out the standards that will be upheld throughout the process. Be specific regarding end results, time frames, and expected levels of effort.
  • Clearly and explicitly defining each member’s role and responsibilities.

The clearer initial goals and expectations are, the less time will be spent arguing when someone is held accountable because of ambiguous initial goals.

Invite Commitment

Although you may make these initial conditions and goals clear, it is important to have the team members commit to these standards and expectations. Work with your team to make sure that everyone commits to their role, understanding how it will benefit both the individual and the team. Be sure to put it in writing, too. This will give the commitment a physical representation that cannot be debated.

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Accountability grows when this connection is made, and is enhanced when other people are aware of the commitment. Team members are further motivated to accomplish their tasks and will more readily welcome you holding them accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

Measure progress

Measure the progress of team members in alignment with the goals and expectations set out at the beginning. Goals can only be measured when they are quantified. Compare the measured results to the goals to find out where team members need the most improvement.

Provide feedback

After setting clear expectations, committing to set goals, and measuring progress, it is important to provide feedback to team members so that there can be improvement towards the goal. When creating an accountability culture in a company, make sure that the feedback that you do give highlights both the positive things that the team member has done and the areas where they can improve.

There are several methods of providing feedback that you can research. One example is the Rose, Bud, Thorn method.

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No matter which method you may prefer to use, here are some tips to give the best feedback possible:

  • Talk about the work and behavior, not the person.
  • Work with your team member to improve the situation.
  • Don’t harp.

Link to consequences

Not all people are driven by internal motivating factors. It is important to emphasize the link to consequences, whether as a ‘whip’ behind the team members to drive them forward, or as a carrot for them to chase. As a leader, it is key to assess and realize which type of motivation different people may need.

Evaluate effectiveness

Not all methods of operation are effective! Waiting until the end of the process or project to evaluate the effectiveness can severely hamper the potential of you as an individual or your team as a whole. Step aside and assess the plan and the participating team members. Evaluate the effectiveness of each component, good and bad, in relation to the goal and mission.

An accountability culture does not end with evaluating effectiveness, and it is not established by going through this process one time. Once you take stock in the efficiency of the process and team, use the information you have gained to improve the process moving forward.

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Bonus

With accountability, a team full of Directly Responsible Individuals (DRI) can be created.

When assigning a task, make sure that at the end of the day, a single person is responsible for its completion. It is acceptable to have a team helping to get it done, but when something goes wrong that person is the only one accountable. This eliminates confusion and opportunities to blame someone else.

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CJ Goulding

CJ Goulding is the Lead Organizer at Natural Leaders Network, building leaders and connections in and between humans.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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