Can We Count on You?

I’m sure many of you have been involved in roles with boards of organizations – whether in the private, public or non-profit sectors. Overall, I’m confident you’ve found them to be great opportunities to contribute, in a very meaningful way, to the growth and success of these entities.

accountable name tagSometimes, however, I bet the experience has been a challenge. Recently, for example, I’ve been living with dynamics on one board that are creating lots of stress and extra work for some of the directors – including me! Bottom line – it relates to board member accountability in carrying out their roles, meeting their commitments and getting results.

Ensuring accountability needs to be a key focus of all leaders – particularly those in highly visible roles. Effective organizations typically create meaningful measures and metrics to monitor and track progress against stated aspirations such as goals, objectives and initiatives. Mechanisms are put in place for individuals, teams and work units to ensure people are delivering on their commitments.

Whether staff or board member, the consequences of weak accountability are damaging and potentially significant. For any individual who fails to demonstrate accountability in his or her role – personal and professional reputation, future career opportunities and job security or board tenure could be ‘on the line.’ For any work group or team, weak accountability by one or more members can easily generate simmering resentment among the other members. It can also reduce collegiality and cooperation, demotivate team members and lead to substandard performance.

As a leader, what can you do to strengthen accountability in situations where it appears to be consistently variable, weak or even absent? Here are some key suggestions to build and strengthen the culture of accountability you desire.

1.) Be a Role Model

As they say, accountability starts at the top, so be sure that you’re meeting the expectations others have of you and are following through on your stated commitments. Team members will take their cue from your behaviour – if your approach to commitments is haphazard, you’ll begin to see real ‘drift’ in terms of accountability within the group. Every so often, reach out to trusted colleagues to get their feedback regarding how well you’re doing in terms of meeting their expectations and delivering on your commitments.

leadership team

2.) Set the Stage

Be sure that each group member is clear on their level of engagement and expected deliverables when they accept a specific position, role or assignment. Clarity up front will ensure that team members are aligned with your expectations and those of the rest of the group. Check to see that your group members have adequate capacity and the necessary skills to carry out their duties. Confirm the actual level of interest and engagement of each team member for potentially challenging and/or time-consuming aspects of their role.

3.) Create the Framework

Instilling accountability requires the ability to document commitments, monitor progress and provide feedback to team members. Make sure you’ve got the process and tools in place to support meaningful accountability. Establishing measures and metrics to gauge progress on key goals and initiatives creates a natural line of sight between individual responsibility and organizational priorities.

4.) Address Individual Shortfalls

Sit down with the negligent individual and get an understanding, from the team member’s perspective, as to why specific expectations or commitments are not being met. Determine how well this aligns with your observations and understanding of the situation. If the right tone has been established, ask open-ended questions and probe deeper to determine root causes and motives for the behaviour.

5.) Share the Impact

Be sure to share the impact that missing key commitments and not delivering expected deliverables is having on others in the group. Also describe the longer-term potential hazards – damaged personal and professional reputation, limited career progression and even tenure on the team.

leader taking ownership

6.) Provide Support

If circumstances such as heavy work volume, personal issues or other professional commitments are the basis for accountability deficit, begin a dialogue on how best to support team members in meeting their commitments – perhaps transferring commitments elsewhere and/or adjusting role and responsibilities. Discuss knowledge and skill development that may enhance the team member’s ability to meet role and task commitments.

7.) Outline Consequences

If accountability by an individual team member continues to be variable, inconsistent or absent, review the potential consequences with them. These may range from increased oversight to changes in role and responsibilities to departure from the team. Ensure that meaningful opportunities have been provided, and continue to be offered, to assist the team member to better meet his or her commitments.

Leaders have a key role in strengthening accountability – from role modeling the behaviour, setting the stage and creating a framework to proactively addressing accountability deficits within the team.

If you want to get a better sense of how to enhance your team’s accountability, reach out to me at scott@scottborland.ca or 250-882-8830.

About The Author

Scott Borland, Founder & President of CYGNUS Management Consultants Inc, , is a recognized expert in helping executives host strategic conversations and obtain high impact feedback. He brings insightful perspective and proven strategies to strengthen the alignment between strategy and leadership behaviour. Scott has presented frequently at regional/national conferences and is a regular contributor to online journals/blogs. Follow Scott on Twitter or add him as a connection on LinkedIn.

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