One valuable opportunity available to teams and organizations that develop a Coaching Culture, is the concomitant cultivation of an Accountability Culture.
Traditional accountability is generally thought of as a leader holding others accountable to the leader’s requirements. While leaders are ultimately responsible for making sure that their teams and direct reports deliver on identified objectives, in the hands of too many leaders that accountability mandate can be wielded as a blunt instrument. Too often old-style accountability approaches can leave team members discouraged, even fearful or angry, and may undermine morale and productivity.
Accountability Culture is not about leaders holding accountability over their direct reports’ heads. Accountability Culture is about cultivating an environment where everyone is committed to self-accountability.
The leader or manager’s role in an Accountability Culture is to provide structure and support for their direct reports’ own self-accountability. Whether at a team or individual level, this may be accomplished through 3 key avenues:
(1) Providing great clarity about needs and expectations, and differentiating between areas that are mandated vs. areas where there is room for choice about things like approach
(2) Asking questions to assist them in identifying the structure and support that they need. Questions such as these may be helpful…
- What is it, exactly, that you are committing to?
- Ask “who, what, where, when, how?” for those who need help thinking things through.
- How will you hold yourself accountable to this commitment?
- What supports and structure do you need that will help you with that?
- What obstacles might get in the way, and how will you manage them?
(3) No blame and shame if it doesn’t turn out as desired! Instead, use the opportunity to unpack the learning together. “Given this result, what does this tell you that you need to do differently in the future?”
Accountability Culture requires safety, in the form of an openness to accept failure as a learning opportunity, where finger-pointing is not an acceptable behavior. You can’t give direct reports a long leash, and then use it to hang them if it doesn’t work out!
The good news is that in an Accountability Culture where that kind of safety is present, people will also feel safe to stretch themselves to achieve more, to take on bigger challenges, to share innovative ideas! That’s the kind of culture that can take a team or organization from good to great. When everyone is in mutual agreement that it’s desirable and safe to be and do their best, without penalty and embracing full self-responsibility, amazing things can happen!