The 5 C’s of Leadership Accountability

For leaders, there is a thirst for increasing accountability. Holding people accountable is one of the most important things a successful leader does, but it is also one of the hardest. A lack of accountability can spread through an organization, limiting productivity and killing morale. And personal accountability doesn’t always translate to accountability in a team. As a leader, it’s your job to provide them with a definition of what it is you’re holding them accountable for doing and increase your communication to increase accountability.  To do this, use the Five Cs (from Rhythm Systems):

1. Common Purpose: Set the stage for any team initiative by talking about ‘why.’ Connect what you need the team to do with why you need them to spend valuable time doing it. What’s the point? Why does it matter? Many leaders are good at telling people what to do. But the ‘why’ gets ignored. The sign of a high performing team is the ability to rally around a common purpose.

2. Clear Expectations: What is it that you ultimately need the team to do? You need to tell the team over and over again, so that all of the team members are clear on what is expected of them. It often takes several repetitions before the entire team can communicate them effectively.
Clarify: Are you looking for one specific viable solution to a company-wide problem, or are you asking the team to agree on three potential solutions? Do you expect them to define a roadmap for the one (or three) solutions, or not? Do you need them to present a list of pros and cons with their solution(s)? How do you want to be kept informed along the way? Be as specific as possible about what you need from the team.
Accountable Leadership: Who’s ultimately accountable for making sure that what the team needs to do gets done? You, the leader, shouldn’t think you have all the power to check how things are going. Instead, who on the team can take the leadership role to make sure the transition gets moving, and keeps moving?
– In your mind, what does success look like when you achieve a goal? Setting up a metric for what success looks like clarifies the degree to which people are supposed to do something. Define (clearly) what success looks like. (Side note: Try to avoid having a due date as a success metric. Any of us can produce a ton of mediocre work by a deadline.)

3. Communicate & Align: It is a leader’s job to keep a team focused and aligned. Over and over, communicate with them, ask questions, remind them why what they’re doing is important, etc. Your job as a leader is to keep them all rowing in the same direction, especially when rolling out annual plans and your quarterly plans. Communication and alignment are what provides life to any team because it’s what fosters longer-term sustainability.

4. Collaborate and Coach: Monitor progress and coach your people. Don’t tell them what to do. Coach. Listen (80%) and talk (20%) to increase your team performance. Nurture them to converse with each other. Be a resource – what roadblocks need to be removed, and how can you help remove them? If what you’ve tasked your people to do is important, then it deserves your support. Collaboration is at the heart of a great weekly team meeting which is where the accountability rubber meets the road. Did everyone do what they said they were going to do?

5. Consequences: Most people see consequences and immediately think of a negative connotation. Consequences can also be positive. Make results and consequences visible. Talk to your team strategically vs tactically, through questions vs. statements. And for some reason, leaders are the first to let people know when something’s gone wrong. But when things go well, success is glossed over. This creates a remedial culture. People are only noticed and given attention at weekly team meetings when things don’t go as expected. Give equal or more weight to what’s gone right. Celebrate!