The Mindset of Accountability
Accountability is frequently reviewed in the corporate world. Managers expect employees to show up for work and perform tasks without having to be reminded or prompted. The same is true for directors and C-level staff. Each of us desires those with whom we could not do our jobs without to be productive and self regulated. Creating accountability within your team, home, or classroom is more than just a list of to dos. It requires a change in mindset.
The Need for Accountability
I have been told that there is nothing worse than a micro-managing supervisor. I have been a small business owner since the day I graduated college, and therefore, have never had to deal with having a boss. Instead, all of the expectations are self imposed. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this when stressing out about hitting a deadline that has no more power than a due date column in Excel. However having these high expectations for myself trickles down the ladder to my team of directors.
In the beginning years of my business, Pinnacle Gymnastics, I was very hands on in every aspect. I had no other choice as I was my only full time employee for nearly three years. However, once I turned the corner and was able to add staff under my umbrella, I had to take the time to learn how to manage others. At first, I felt like adding staff was more stressful than it was worth. Many times I would feel that I could do something faster, better, or just more "the way I want it done" than whomever was taking on the task. However, over the course of time, I realized that I was not the best - in fact, being pulled in too many different directions actually made me worse at certain things.
The truth is, no one can do it alone. We all need people in our lives that help us. Granted we all need help in different areas and with different things, but all in all, we need people that we can count on. As my business grew, this was ever more clear. I needed a staff that I could count on - not just to show up, but to lead others and grow my business along side me.
Steps Leaders Can Take to Encourage Accountability
You will have to ask my staff someday about the blunders along the way. I will never claim to have done it right from the beginning or worked out all of the kinks. My staff has been super patient with me (and still is) when it comes to my leadership strategy.
1. Lead By Example
Cliche as it may be, leading by example is the number one way to inspire others. Our attitudes, emotions, and actions are scientifically contagious. Whether it is showing up, responding to others quickly, owning our actions, or providing excellent customer service, everyone on your team looks to you as a model. What type of behavior have you modeled this week?
2. Start Small
When trusting others to be self driven instead of riding in the passenger seat, we can't give them the reigns all at once. Start by delegating one or two tasks or projects without checking in along the way. Be sure to lay out clear expectations (tip #4).
3. Embrace Change
There is not a doubt that someone you have on your team is able to accomplish the same task in a different way. This is a great part about having great minds in the same place. Instead of vetoing every deviation from the norm, see if there are parts of the "new way" that are actually better or add value to the "old way" of doing things.
4. Make Expectations Clear
Having clear expectations is a key component to many relationships, including those in the workplace. When you are asking members of your team to be accountable, the last thing you want to do is check in on them. That is, after all, one of the key points of having autonomy. Getting nervous the job isn't going to get done? Lay out a schedule of check ins from staff to manager so that the manager never has to ask the staff member for an update.
Did you delegate a task that made your life easier? Were you able to focus on a large project because you cancelled a few of your "status update" meetings? Look back at the time you saved yourself and your company with your hands off approach to management. Maybe even reward yourself with a 30 minute break!
Steps Parents and Coaches Can Take to Teach Accountability
Don't have a staff to manage? What about a group of small children that can be both angels and devils in the blink of an eye? Accountability in the workplace is very similar to teaching accountability to children. In addition to the five tips above, try a few of these methods below to improve the accountability of your family or team.
Without choice, you cannot teach accountability. Kids must have the power to make decisions and do things for themselves. Teaching self help encourages accountability and shows that we trust our kids. When a child has to make their own lunch, they get to choose (some of) the things they include in it. Let them tell you what assignments they have instead of checking the parent portal. When children feel like you trust them, they are more likely to follow through. Check out these ways to empower kids.
2. Praise Them
Want to see more of any given behavior? Praise children (and adults) any time they are doing something responsible - especially doing something without being asked! The more positive feedback we give the more of that behavior we will see.
3. Recognize That Children Are NOT Adults
This is something I struggle with and find myself having to repeat in my head over and over again. Children are not adults. Their brains are not fully developed until (some studies say) 28 years old! Embracing the mistakes and hiccups along the way will make the ride more enjoyable. When they fall of course (check out these ways to teach kids self control), gently redirect them. The minds of young people are moldable - choose wisely in the way you help shape them.
Accountability can be a freeing concept. It can take pressure off when you know that you are calling your own shots. Accountability is not a one time event. It is a mindset that you can control. According to Cy Wakeman, commitment, resilience, ownership, and continuous learning lead to an accountable mindset. Are you ready to take on the accountability challenge?