Creating accountability across an organization is daunting. Yet the payoffs make it vitally important to face the challenge. Effective accountability requires not only clearly defining it, but also performing the following: orienting, emoting, engaging, and communicating.

Accountability across a team or organization is impossible if people are not oriented properly on what they are to focus their attention and efforts on. Orienting with regard to developing and maintaining accountability requires providing focus by offering vision/direction, clear goals, and leadership.

Vision, or a sense of direction, tells everyone not only where the company is heading, but also what are the major outcomes being sought. This allows everyone, no matter the professional training or function, to align around the vision and to take ownership for the direction or mission. If they don’t know where they are supposed to be going, then how can they be accountable for achievement? Clear goals are required at all levels since they are discrete ways of ensuring that we stay on track and we are making the necessary progress. The goals serve as benchmarks for the organization, for departments, and individuals, with regard to performance and keeping commitments.


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Finally, leadership at all levels is required to provide positive role models in how to keep one’s word, take personal responsibility, and maintain vision and goal focus.

Orienting alone will not create the requisite accountability. The dimension of emoting is critical. The drivers of this emotional dimension are persistence, trust and commitment.

Persistence is sticking with something, even when others are ready to throw in the towel. It is saying, “I will be faithful. I will see this through to the end.” Without persistence, something started well will sputter and come to a stop. Yet, to persist without trust is to try to do it yourself, to not rely on the other members of your team. In an organization, accountability cannot reside in only one person. It must reside in the greater number of people present. It is a chain of mutual trust.

Key questions then become, “Where do we stand with regard to trust?” “What is fostering cross-functional trust?” and “What is getting in the way of creating greater trust?”

Finally, the driver of commitment is essential to making accountability a living reality. Are you, and the people around you, committed to the vision and goals of the organization? Are you demonstrating your commitment in your actions, as well as your words? Are you asking for, and gaining, the commitment of others?

Orienting and emoting, while vital to system-wide accountability, also require the dimension of engaging team involvement, and clear metrics. You engage others when you challenge them to offer the best they have to the mission and goals before them.

Challenge of self and team requires getting the team involved in the process of seeing the vision and achieving the goals. In organizations, very little of importance gets accomplished without teamwork, and the more engaged the team is, the better the outcomes tend to be.

Engagement is only as good as your measurement system; what you measure, and how you measure it. Without some understood scale or process for measuring progress, responsible team behavior and involvement will fall apart.

Orienting, emoting, and engaging, while vital to creating accountability, also require communicating effectively. The core drivers of communicating in order to create, enhance, and sustain system-wide accountability are: recognition, regular feedback, and positive input.

Communicating effectively about the metrics, about progress, as well as about areas which need to be addressed, depends upon actively recognizing individuals and teams with examples of excellence, progress made, adherence to standards and values, as well as rewarding those behaviors.

Regular feedback is the lifeblood of accountability, since it provides clear information on progress, offers recognition quickly and also addresses deficits, problem behavior, or issues immediately.

This develops trust and brings to life the vision, in terms of the meaningfulness of the metrics being used. Adding positive input, (encouraging people to offer ideas, positive suggestions, and solutions), when married to other dimensional drivers, leads to a robust and vital foundation for systemic accountability at all levels.

Where do you stand with regard to the accountability dimensions of orienting, emoting, engaging, and communicating in your organization?


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