One of the most important aspects of a successful company is accountability –– especially in leadership. In a 2019 article, Forbes contributor John Hall discussed how accountability improves company culture by creating an environment of “honesty and integrity,” where people can acknowledge mistakes without fearing blame. Such a culture not only improves employee satisfaction but also, as Hall expressed, makes people more compliant with workplace guidelines and standards.
With all of that being said, it’s also important to recognize that a culture of accountability has to start with a leader who exemplifies the idea. Leaders need to know that accountability goes two ways. On the one hand, they should communicate goals to their employees, who will need to execute tasks to reach them. On the other hand, employees should also be able to offer feedback to leaders regarding how goals can be reached or what assistance might be helpful. Within reason, leaders should be open to responding to this kind of feedback, effectively holding themselves accountable for performance.
To help you achieve accountable leadership in your own business, here are some steps to consider.
Establish expectations clearly
Unclear goals will cause confusion and frustration in your team, because people won’t know what they’re accountable for. The US Chamber of Commerce recommends the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) framework in order to clearly communicate your expectations so that employees know where to focus their efforts.
Say you want to increase your profits. You can take a “SMART” approach by asking questions such as why you want that goal, how you’ll attain it, and by when. As the leader, you should share these goals by stating them concretely: for example, “I’ll increase business profits by the end of the year by improving current customer relationships and further promoting the business through social media and networks.” With this kind of clear and thorough direction, employees know what to expect and work toward even before you assign specific tasks.
Be aware of the business’s financial health
It goes without saying that money keeps a business running. This means that part of a leader’s accountability is being aware of how money is moving throughout the business. AskMoney put it nicely in a post earlier this year, stating that cash flow shows your business’s “financial health,” which in turn helps you to make more informed decisions. If the “health” is sound, you can spend as needed to grown and accomplish goals. If it’s not, however, you’ll need o adjust money management accordingly.
The most important thing you can first do when managing your cash flow is to check your cash statement, a document that summarizes how much wealth is entering and leaving the business. Keeping regular tabs on this kind of information enables you to measure financial health, which in turn keeps you accountable to the business itself. Only with a comprehensive picture of internal finances can you appropriately allocated funds –– whether to inventory, growth strategy, or even employee salaries.
Work interruptions, pandemic stress factors, and remote work have made empathy more important than ever before in places of business. Accordingly, a past post on “Hybrid Leadership” here suggested an approach to empathetic leadership requiring leaders to adjust practices and behaviors to meet individual needs. For instance, you may have an ideal workflow in mind, but it may be the case that forcing your employees to follow it might actually hinder or slow them. Instead, you can trust them enough to accomplish the ultimate goals you have in mind through their own skills and work ethics –– and within their limitations. That said, it’s still important to give them general guidelines and expectations, and to be available when they need support. Empathetic leadership does not mean abandoning structure or oversight.
Accountability is both personal and organizational. From leaders to employees, each person has their own tasks to accomplish, but they should also communicate openly regarding any progress or problems, so that the involved parties can work on solutions that benefit everyone.
Thank you for reading, and for more articles on life, culture, and business, check our blog here on BizCatalyst 360°.