“I didn’t know!” You ever hear that when counseling an employee? If you didn’t hear it, they were probably thinking it . . . or some version of it like

“Am I supposed to read your mind?”

Accountability starts with communication. Shame on you if you didn’t start there!

Trusted Communication = Embraced Accountability

In a previous post, I equated Process to Culture. Communication is a process that initiates all action. In our human bodies, our physical action or function of our organs don’t happen unless our brain is communicating to the respective parts of our body. In parenting, our kids don’t know what’s expected of them unless we first communicate. In marriage, our spousal relationships don’t thrive without communication. For any relationship to thrive, communication is key in creating the culture you want in that relationship.

Your business is made up of relationships. The health of your business body is directly related to how you communicate. How that communication is received and whether people will be held accountable to specific actions is based on the trust level you have with them. Pat Lencioni teaches that Accountability will be non-existent if there’s an absence of Trust.

In two of my recent CEO peer group meetings, the members questioned each other’s commitment and value they receive from their peer group. I thought, “this could go really badly”, since my income comes from their participation in these groups. We had some great, challenging discussions on how they’re holding each other and themselves accountable (or not). I also reminded them of the reason they joined the group and the expectations of their membership (which clearly they were falling short of) to get the most value . . . something I could not have done without a level of trust with the groups. This communication re-invigorated the groups and they ended up re-committing to each other and most importantly to themselves in stepping up accountability.

The members that are willing to step up and be accountable are the members I want. Employees that embrace accountability are the ones you want. And that starts with Trusted Communication.

Accountability as an End Product, Not an Action

As stated in this Harvard Business Review article and in the LMA tool I use for EOS clients, communicating clear expectations is the first step to having accountability. But if that communication is falling on deaf ears, then accountability will not result. How you communicate determines the result.

If there’s an absence of trust, regardless of how often or clearly you communicate, you will not achieve the desired results. There must be a genuine level of trust between the communicating parties to achieve the desired results (“vulnerability-based” trust in Lencioni’s words).

As shown on the 5 Dysfunctions Model to the right, absence of Trust results in avoidance of Accountability.

In my LMA sessions, I teach:

Leadership + Management = Accountability

Meaning if YOU do what you’re supposed to do as a leader and manager (which starts with clear communication), then accountability results.

What is Your Accountability Culture?

Do you have a culture of accountability? (Source: Table Group)

–         Team members point out one another’s unproductive behaviors.

–         Team members are quick to confront problems in their respective areas of responsibility.

–         Team members question one another about their current approaches.

–         The team ensures that poor performers feel pressure and the expectation to improve.

–         All team members are held to the same high standards.

–         Team members consistently follow through on commitments.

–         Team members offer unprovoked, constructive feedback to one another.

If not, are you starting with communicating clear expectations? And is that communication through an environment of vulnerable-based trust?

Accountability is not something you force on people. They either embrace it or they don’t. You can’t control their actions or results, but you can control yours. Start with yourself by creating that environment of trust so that when you clearly communicate expectations, it’s accepted genuinely for the benefit of all involved. Then you’ll see the desired results!

Take the Organizational Checkup to gauge the health of your company! For more information on creating a healthy business lifestyle, read about the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS).

To Your Business Health!

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