Great leaders don’t demand respect – they earn it. Every parent knows by experience that if you want to teach your children to make their beds, be kind to others, or build any other positive habit, you have to start by doing it yourself. That’s because kids can spot hypocrisy a mile away. If you aren’t going to hold yourself to the same standards you are asking of them, eventually they’ll stop listening to you.
That’s not just true for parents and kids. It’s true for every leader.
Living out the expectations you place on others will earn respect from your team and make you a more influential leader – the kind of leader people want to follow. That doesn’t mean a leader has to be perfect, but it does mean that personal accountability must be a priority.
No matter what your leadership style or goals, accountability is the glue that holds everything together. When you practice personal accountability and teach your team to do so as well, you’ll instill a sense of ownership that keeps everyone motivated and moving toward their goals.
Here are four ways you can build personal accountability into your leadership style and workplace culture.
1. Set clear goals and create accountability measures
Goal-setting pinpoints opportunities for growth and empowers team members to take ownership of those opportunities. Without accountability measures, it’s easy to overcommit, procrastinate, or focus energy on the wrong things. By building accountability into your daily workflows, you can help your team be more engaged and productive. Start by:
- Defining expectations – Make sure team members know what they are expected to accomplish and that they have the resources they need to do so. Expectations should be clear, specific, and achievable.
- Setting a deadline – Deadlines don’t have to be a negative thing. They simply frame a goal within a time-based context. If you have a big project coming due, for example, you can set soft deadlines for each incremental step to stay on track.
- Checking in regularly – Regular check-ins provide opportunities for team members to ask questions and get help if they need it. If someone isn’t checking off their assigned tasks, managers can check in to see if they need additional resources or support.
2. Take responsibility for mistakes
People respect leaders who are willing to own their mistakes. A transparent, honest culture of accountability also gives your team members the freedom to be more confident in their work.
When things don’t go as planned, step into the situation and figure out how to solve the problem. If a mistake has impacted others, be willing to apologize and take steps to make things right. Taking ownership of mistakes is the best way to demonstrate commitment to the team and to the organization as you focus on the desired outcome. Weave this approach into the fabric of your culture as you work toward solutions rather than being bogged down by problems.
3. Seek input from others
One of the most important things you can do to help your team feel valued is to ask for and respond to feedback. When things go well, recognize the specific ways in which contributors brought value. When things don’t go well, ask questions about how to plan for a better outcome in the future. If you practice this as a leader, it will set the tone for a more collaborative culture where team members hold one another accountable and support each other as they work toward a goal.
It’s also helpful to ask for feedback from peers or mentors not directly involved in the project or team. Those outside the situation can often provide valuable perspectives on where improvements can be made. Of course, this implies a willingness to listen and take feedback seriously. It doesn’t mean you always take the recommended course of action, but it does mean you are humble enough to acknowledge where others may see things that you don’t.
4. Take ownership of results, both for yourself and for the organization
Be willing to take final responsibility for decisions and outcomes, whether good or bad, and learn from them. As you lead by example, this will trickle down through the culture of your organization as well. Directors should take ownership of departmental outcomes. Managers should take responsibility for the performance of their teams. Individuals should take responsibility for personal choices and use of time. In all of these situations, team members must learn to effectively gauge whether they have the ability, resources, and time to take on a task and then own the results.
Learning to Lead with Accountability
It’s not always a given that team members know how to prioritize accountability in the workplace. Like any skill, however, it can be learned.
In our Making the Connection Leadership Series, we walk you through the reasons for weaving personal accountability into your culture and we show you how to build accountability practices and structures into your organization. When you hold yourself and your team accountable for the commitments you’ve made, you’ll be able to celebrate new milestones while also addressing issues before they become serious problems.
Join us to discover how you can hone your leadership skills and lead your team to exceptional outcomes.