So you think you want a culture of accountability? Well that’s great! There is a significant amount of evidence that organizations with accountable people have higher engagement and performance; simply Google “link between accountability and performance” and you will have over 100,000 articles to validate this point. But let’s assume your “gut” instinct is already there, and the promise of being surrounded by people who will do the “unasked” in pursuit of your organization’s objectives and goals is appealing, what then? Do you simply announce that everyone is accountable to the results? After all, your people are paid for their work so they should simply accept accountability as part of their mandate. Right? Well if it was that easy to ignite an accountability culture we’d all have them.

In fact, it starts with you and your mindset. You will need an Accountability Leadership Mindset, because in many organizations there exist leadership styles that are toxic to accountability. Have you ever seen any of these in practice?

  • Mushroom Management: Keep people in the dark on decisions that affect them and “can” them if they voice an opinion.
  • Seagull Management: Leaders stay well above their people and only swoop down to crap on them.
  • Bulletin Board Management: Decisions simply occur with no explanation and appear so disconnected with day-to-day reality that they must only benefit the boss.
  • Benevolent Dictatorship: Management makes the decisions, tells people what to do and takes care of them.

These autocratic, narcissistic and paternalistic environments exist to greater or lesser extents in many organizations and generate fear, apathy and entitlement. Certainly not fertile soil in which to grow accountability. Let’s say this is not your environment, but you are also not sure about this mindset concept of Accountability Leadership. Let me ask you…

If a friend invited you over for dinner would you arrive empty-handed? If your answer is “yes” then you need the kind of help only my mother can provide. But if you would unconsciously bring a bottle of wine, or some other host-gift it is because you understand the principle of reciprocity.

You see, reciprocal gifting is at the heart of an Accountability Leadership Mindset. In my experience there is a strong link between decision rights, responsibility and accountability. As such you cannot tell people they are accountable, you need to first “gift” them authority to act, with the clear understanding that the expected “reciprocal gift” to you is accountability. This is the mindset that is required, one where you give up some control and truly empower people. While there are many steps and systems required to nurture and encourage accountability cultures, if your mindset is not ready then don’t spend the time, money and effort on the implementation.

If you still want to create accountability from this mindset – Congratulations! While there is a fair amount of work ahead for you, the benefits to you, your people, customers and stakeholders are significant. Not least of which is the feeling of total relaxation you will experience on your next vacation!

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