Accountability portends everyone resuming individual authority over their decisions, actions, attitude and results. That is – shortly put.
Rather than a set of skills, accountability is a quality found in people looking to improve themselves. Albeit, execs would like us to believe every employee of their company always gives their best, the truth is often quite the opposite. Accountability needs to be cultivated, nurtured and recognized.
For starters, if you work in a company where everyone looks only to flee the scene of the crime the moment the working hours are over, the environment is far from inspiring. We’re not saying overtime should be regular practice; we’re arguing that working hours spent in the most efficient way possible are what inspires people.
In that sense, accountability means bold decisions; stepping forward and demanding tasks for yourself rather than waiting for the higher-ups to assign them to you is the first step. Don’t confuse the practice with initiative. The initiative is only the initial boost; accountability sees the whole process from start to finish.
Whether the task has been performed successfully or unsuccessfully, you should own up to the outcome and your decisions leading to it. Poorer results than expected shouldn’t discourage you; rather, they should motivate you to define the root cause and work on improving yourself in the areas that need polishing.
In this way, accountability builds up over time and contributes both to the employee becoming a more reliable colleague and a better person. When there’s no finger-pointing, people will feel more relaxed and will take risks more confidently. By extension, this will contribute to nurturing more creative teams and accountable environments that will bring forth success to the company in the long run.
1. Accountability and Productivity: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Accountability and productivity are two sides of the same coin, in more ways than one. Productivity is a natural outcome of actions employees own up to, with everyone sharing in the joint success. But, that also means that employees will admit to their mistakes and shortcomings, working effectively to address the issues. But this is an area where digital nomads and freelancers excel, even when only coming in contact with the rest of the team on a monthly Zoom call.
The third factor many non-startup employees are afraid to even think about, let alone act upon it, is risk-taking. As the name portends, risks sometimes pay off and sometimes – don’t. Still, they are necessary for progress because doing things “the usual way” will keep everyone in limbo without a chance to move forward.
Accountability is crucial when it comes to risk-taking because people are often swift to own up to their successes but not to their failures. This contributes to an unhealthy environment where everyone is pointing fingers at one another. Certainly, such an environment will never thrive or inspire employees to give their best to every business effort, let alone come up with their own ideas and creative approaches.
Productivity in itself is not all about results, albeit many people tend to see the final result alone. On the contrary, productivity is an ongoing process many people work hard on to achieve, cultivate and enhance, building up to a collective mindset of shared success.
To achieve such results, joint efforts are necessary, top to bottom, as well as open communication and encouragement.
The importance of communication can hardly be exaggerated. Notwithstanding different psychological types (introverts, for example, are famous for shunning loud environments), the fact that there is a plethora of communication tools and apps makes for a suitable environment for every kind of meeting – individual, small groups, large groups, etc.
Communication ensures that any issues will be dealt with swiftly when they arise. Accountability will help with defining the root cause and addressing it properly.
In order for healthy communication to be established in the long run, it is essential that managers and leaders also stick to the principles of accountability. Credit should be given where it is due but employees should never be blamed. Rather, they should be encouraged to brainstorm poorly-performing tasks and communicate openly with their colleagues to find the best solution.
A culture nurtured in this way will make every single employee proud of their work and continually give their best – because they will observe the company’s success as their own. By extension, strong teams versed in every participant’s strengths and weaknesses will always be capable to swiftly and efficiently allocate sub-tasks to those best-suited to bring them to a successful conclusion.
3. Priorities and Focus
Being goal-oriented is certainly among the first steps toward achieving accountability. This is a state of mind rather than an on/off skill, and it takes loads of effort to achieve it.
Firstly, all goals should be realistic. Everyone sometimes overestimates their own abilities due to various reasons, which is why building a goal-oriented mindset takes time and expertise.
To ensure this, specific metrics need to be set in place. The metrics also help everyone within a team understand clearly what the task is all about, without the need to further clarify and thus waste time on things that can be avoided.
To further increase the chance of success, defining priorities is an absolute must. Since the main issue nearly all businesses face seems to be the overwhelming number of tasks, the following must be clearly stated: multitasking is a bad habit. Research clearly shows that our brains are not suited to handling multiple tasks as we wrongly assume. In fact, it has been argued that multitasking can reduce productivity by a stunning 40%.
Too much work is not good neither for mental nor for physical health. That’s why it is important to allocate sufficient time for each task, leaving empty slots for your regular breaks. Also, if there are 20 minutes left until the end of the working day and you’ve just finished a task, better not start on the next one because tomorrow, you’ll have to do it from the beginning anyway.
Forget all about multitasking and overworking yourself. High priority tasks should always come first. If there is some extra time left when they’re finished, you may move on to the next, less pressing task, but only if it’s sustainable. E.g., if there are 15 minutes left before the end of the working day, better leave the next task for the next day.
In a Nutshell
Accountability is a mindset that naturally develops as a result of supportive environments, honesty and owning up to both good and bad results. It comprises multiple single and joint efforts, ultimately leading to the creation of a business environment where everyone will get a chance to be best at what they do and contribute to the overall company success.
Accountability is achieved by:
- Acknowledging important tasks
- Brainstorming each task, continually
- Defining priorities
- Being goal-oriented
- Being realistic and honest
- Acknowledging any potential issues and working on solving them
- Owning up to your decisions, attitude and results
- Being persistent
In the long run, accountability is what makes businesses more successful than competitors because every employee sees company success as their own, which, need we say, should be the very ultimate goal.
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