“To hold someone accountable is to care enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out their deficiencies.”- Patrick Lencioni
I need more accountability. You need more accountability. Our teams and organizations need more accountability if we’re going to avoid the traps of mediocrity.
If we want our teams to increase their innovation, growth, and performance we need to not only give them the freedom and security to fail, but also the accountability to deliver results.
Security + Accountability = Higher Performance
Growing strong in many organizations is an “accountability gap.” We’re seeing more & more leaders and organizations step up the “security” plate, providing a “safe, friendly, family-like” atmosphere…which is great, but is only part of the equation.
“We’re building a culture of accountability…” — Brad Stevens
The need for equal parts security and accountability is real, and is inherent within a culture. When there is imbalance, you can feel it within the first few minutes of talking with any employee. Fortunately, we know where to find the cause of low accountability…unfortunately, it’s usually at the top.
The WATERFALL Effect
When accountability is lacking throughout the organization, you must start at the top. Accountability is like a waterfall, and with each passing level, the force becomes less and less. If your CEO is holding his/her direct reports accountable at a 90% level, you can expect the SVPs to be held at an 80% level, the VPs at a 70% level, AVPs at a 60% level, etc. (*this is obviously quite scientific and statistically sound).
Now all of this is spoken in generalities, there are naturally going to be pockets of highly self-motivated individuals, or perhaps even teams with solid peer-accountability; but what we find in cultures of low accountability — these outliers often lack the numbers and influence to turn the ship.
Accountability and Culture
Will increasing accountability decrease or diminish our culture? NO
Individuals and teams, at least those with the potential to become high-performing, seek out accountability. Accountability, whether top-down or (especially) from peers, drives the competitive nature within us to excel. Without this, we ease into a lower level of performance, which causes our teams to ease in to a lower level, so on and so forth down through the org chart. By the time you get to the frontline employees, accountability is non-existent. This waterfall of mediocrity is real…and allowing low-performers to exist within your organization’s culture (regardless of their seniority or title) creates a precedence, and acceptance, of mediocrity.
Communicate and Lead by Example
So…as leaders, how do we turn the ship and bridge the gap? Heed the advice of Patrick Lencioni’s quote from above. Each day, we as leaders have an obligation and opportunity to communicate accountability and lead by example. Regardless of what expectations, standards, etc. were accepted in the past, you have the obligation to change. An obligation to yourself, your team, your organization and the people it serves. Take every opportunity to increase accountability in your team and organization, because it starts and stops with leadership.
Originally published at www.paulgeorgoff.com.