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Accountability Is Making a Comeback

We are all susceptible to fads. Some have important effects on our lives, like how we spend our money. National spending habits, for example, (such as a tendency towards credit card debt) develop according to the mood and circumstances of the general population. Other fads are more trivial: shifting hemlines, facial hair styles, the types of cars we drive.

Like everything else, leadership behaviors are subject to fads, too. Leadership accountability is one business trend that is currently resurfacing, thanks to executive coaches and mentors who have redefined the concept.

What Leadership Accountability Means

All too often, “accountability” only comes up in the business world when something has gone terribly wrong and everyone is looking for someone to blame. “Who will be held accountable?” has become synonymous with “Who will take the blame?” It is no wonder the word makes employees uneasy.

Really, though, leadership accountability means commitment, passion, courage and recognition. It is what holds good teams together; a lack of accountability undermines success and renders teamwork ineffective. Encouraging these skills in team members has even made its way into online MBA programs, in leadership and management courses.

To illustrate this newer, more positive meaning of accountability, we can turn to a real-life example from the business world.

A Real-Life Example of Accountability as Commitment

Leadership coach Bill Dann shares a story of a client who had been struggling with teamwork performance issues. Instead of the client blaming her own leadership behaviors, she began to devise very precise goals for each team member. These included actionable tasks or clearly defined changes in behavior. Her overall goal was to bring everyone in line with the team’s goals, with each person contributing to the group effort.

She also started introducing larger group goals on a quarterly basis that included performance data from each department. Finally, she instituted new company-wide policies and informed everyone that they were accountable for adhering to the new mandates.

It worked. The individual commitments to a well-defined, overarching goal made it clear to team members that she was personally invested in their performance. When faced with an employee who refused to adhere to the new rules, she would not budge, showing that she was serious about accountability and performance expectations.

After all, what she was doing, in essence, was saying that things had to change. That is not always easy, but when leadership accountability comes into play, there is no room for shirking a contract of commitment. That is the new meaning of accountability.

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