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4 Steps to Building a Culture of Accountability

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When it comes to managing your company and serving your customers, you need to be confident that things are getting done. If you don't build a of , holding your employees and yourself responsible for behavior, follow-through and values, it could soon start affecting your bottom line.


Julie and Brian Bedford, co-founders of , -based leadership-consulting firm MillerBedford Executive Solutions, say that building a culture of accountability is among the most important areas contributing to long-term success. Entrepreneurs can't do it all alone – it's critical that your employees understand how they contribute to the organization and feel for delivering in that role, Miller says. In their book, Culture Without Accountability—WTF: What's the Fix?, they discuss four key elements to building such an environment within your company.

1. Share your vision. Your employees "need an absolutely clear idea of what you expect," says Bedford. If you have trouble explaining the company's values and goals, as well as what you expect from every employee in each job function, it's hard to demand that your employees understand it. Being able to give crystal-clear direction and constructive feedback is the starting point of accountability.

2. Bring it to life. Just because you've shared your vision doesn't mean everyone's going to immediately "get" it. It may take some time. You may need a training program to teach people the skills they need and how to measure their own success. It's also important to reward the behaviors you want to replicate. And, sometimes, you may have to "pull a few weeds" if some employees are particularly resistant or don't want to adapt to the accountability shift.

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The duo recommend the S.I.S. feedback model, where you explain the situation, explain the impact, and then suggest an alternative behavior. For example, explaining to an employee that when he continually schedules morning meetings, then arrives late, it affects and meeting outcomes. That might be followed up by a suggestion that he either allow more time for commuting or shift his meetings to accommodate a more realistic arrival time.

3. Weave it into the fabric of your organization. Accountability should be expected in every role. Communicate your expectations around roles and responsibilities and how you'll measure success. When you give employees those tools, they are able to have a good sense of their own performance levels and can better hold themselves accountable for those expectations. Give regular feedback so employees can constantly improve, but be sure they see that you're doing so for everyone.

"When an employee sees that you're giving feedback to everyone for the good of the group and not just picking on [him or her], it's received much more openly," Miller says.

4. Model the behavior you seek. If you begin to talk about accountability for others and aren't holding yourself to the same standards, your words will ring hollow. Be sure you're setting your own performance standards and acting the way you want people in your company to act. When you fall short, talk about how you're improving and continuing to live the accountability that you expect from others.

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