Regardless of how important we say accountability is, organizations tend to only bring up the term when there is a complete break down, and an obvious lack of accountability in a team, department or organization. That’s when we tend to unpack the overused business speak, and the Human Resources Department starts a new round of metrics, analytics and evaluations to increase accountability.
As questioned in a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Who should get what data about physician success rates, hospital effectiveness, student achievement, or school performance? What should be measured or tested, and what should be done with the data? Should physician reimbursement be outcome-based, and what factors should be part of outcome measurement? Should teachers be held accountable for the academic success or failure of their students?”
Those efforts are ultimately in vain if they are not working hand-in-hand with self-accountability. Once change is initiated in your employees, you will see it spread throughout the workplace.
In every evaluation, performance discussions should involve coaching or constructive actions for improvement. Most managers loathe giving feedback to begin with, so tacking actionable steps onto the feedback seems even more difficult. However, if it’s used to help people do a better job and get the training the need for their own career path, the impact of the performance review starts to take hold. According to the Harvard Business Review, “High-performing organizations use information to help people improve, by giving people abundant, timely, and helpful data about their performance on a regular basis, individually and as a group.” Here are some of the suggestions given for creating a positive atmosphere of accountability:
Ask questions; stress inquiry. We know that it helps to begin with agreement about goals and then to conduct an inquiry-oriented dialogue: Did you do this, did you try that, and what happened? Questions help people deconstruct the details of performance and consider alternatives without becoming defensive.
Create humiliation-free zones. Performance metrics and reviews should not be intended to “name and shame.” Leaders can provide safe havens in which dialogue can take place without making anyone feel put on the spot, and where difficult issues can be discussed without assigning blame. The goal is to solve problems, not to hurl accusations or tear people down. Creating such a positive climate calls for a matter-of-fact, objective manner: assume that people want to do the right thing and that data help them know what the right thing is.
Break big goals into specific elements. Analyzing the details that accumulate to produce either failure or success can make it easier to identify steps for improvement — and also make it likely that people can feel proud of the things they already do well. The best performers pay attention to discrete actions rather than sweeping generalizations. This also makes it easier to find strengths as well as weaknesses.
Model accountability. It builds confidence in leaders when they name problems that everyone knows are there, put performance data on the table for everyone to see, and refuse to shift responsibility to some nameless “them.” When leaders accept responsibility (for example, by sharing their own performance ratings), it helps other people get over their fear of exposure and humiliation.
The only true accountability is the accountability we expect of ourselves, and it is directly tied to our increased personal effectiveness and an improved professional presence in every situation.
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*Source: Harvard Business Review
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