Developing a culture of accountability
March 19 2018 11:51 PM

By S Zuhair Naqvi/Doha

It’s common to throw around the right words in business without necessarily considering their meaning. I was asked about one of them in particular by a client recently that gave me pause for thought.
We were discussing the importance of accountability and, after mentioning the word several times, she looked at me with a slight tilt in her head before asking, “How do you define accountability?” My explanation, that at its most basic level it’s about doing what’s expected of you and what you’ve committed to, received a scoffed response, “Wishful thinking. Wouldn’t that make work a lot easier?”
Like many things related to people, it sounds easy. Unfortunately, most workplaces suffer from a consistent lack of accountability and the reason is two-fold; employees are not doing what is expected and leaders are failing to create a culture of accountability.
It leaves a simple question. What should businesses do create that culture of accountability?
1. Own your mistakes – individuals don’t want to take accountability because they don’t want to be in the firing line. Lead by example, if you make a mistake hold your hands up and share how you intend to fix it. Show them it’s safe to fail and how to turn failure into an opportunity to learn.
2. Make goal setting collaborative – Ensure people are motivated to achieve specific goals by getting early commitment and buy-in from them and getting them to design and detail their own goals.
3. Make transparency your default setting – Set clear standards and expectations. Ensure every employee should be clear on their role and contribution to the company and provide SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time- bound) goals.
4. Provide regular feedback – Don’t wait for things to get off track, plan for regular checkpoints through any project.
5. Hire well – If you want to create real change it needs to start at the beginning, hire accountable people. Every interview by structured to identify accountability.
6. Make accountability habitual – Emphasise accountability at every opportunity so employees prepare and expect it. For example, set clear agendas in meetings, use accountable language such as directly responsible individual (DRI).
Accountability builds trust and high performing teams. Developing a culture of accountability will happen when leaders consistently practice these principles and lead by example – that’s a journey that can begin at any level.

* S Zuhair Naqvi is the Managing Director of DicoTech Qatar WLL, and an EMBA alumnus of HEC Paris, Class of 2016.

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