“As the boss, you have the freedom to act; it also means you are accountable for results,” declares Alan Randolph. Andy Stanley stood up in stadium full of leaders and said, “Leadership is a stewardship. It is temporary, and you’re accountable.” The buck stops with you. The leader is ultimately responsible for everything! When mistakes get made with a customer order, when something inappropriate gets posted to your social media page, when something breaks due to a lack of preventative maintenance—ultimately, you have to own it. You must avoid the temptation to become defensive or evasive, and instead accept the collective blame when the team falls short–and then guide everyone to move forward with lessons learned in the team’s “tool belt”. The problem compounds when a leader doesn’t acknowledge mistakes. That painful lesson will force you to train your team better and to emphasize certain procedures more often. You’ll get closer to the action for a while until you can let the rope (of control) out more. You’ll find a way to overcome that obstacle and you’ll grow through it.
Commit to not being known for pointing fingers. Blame never moves the company forward, and destroys morale. Since everything rises and falls on leadership, at some level, upstream, there is something better you probably could have done to avoid that slip-up. So, you don’t crush people and become a dictator who fosters a culture of fear. Sure, you enforce your discipline policies in your employee handbook for violating standards of behavior. And, whenever possible, you extend grace. When things go well, a good leader looks out the window—to give credit; when things go poorly, a good leader looks in the mirror—to take responsibility.
Commit also to not being known for making excuses. Excuses are what losers make, to avoid a spotlight on their mistakes. You can’t make progress and make excuses at the same time—it’s one or the other. If you have assigned yourself an action item, or you made a commitment to a staff member, follow-through. Be accountable to yourself, as well as surrounding yourself with mentors and coaches and success partners who will assist you in staying personally accountable. You might think, “I don’t want to be monitored or goaded into action.” I get it. Think of accountability partners as a safeguard against irresponsibility in leaders. No famous leader who fell from power thought that they’d screw up that royally when they started out. It was a series of little compromises with little-to-no accountability.
Exercise your accountability muscle by setting goals for yourself and the company, and riding point on guiding them to successful outcomes. If you mess up or fail, apologize—which sets a tone for others on your team to also own up to mistakes and come clean. Then make it right: correct the mistake and vow to not make that same mistake twice by figuring out where things went south and putting up guard rails. Leaders hold themselves to a higher standard and say, “I am the problem, and I am the solution.”
A good test to indicate how accountable you are is evaluating your willingness to seek and accept advice. If you seek it early, before you take action, you will be less likely to get off track. Ego-driven leaders don’t want advice; they bristle at it. The humble leaders avoid trouble by welcoming it.
One of the things that you cannot delegate—and that you alone are accountable for—is creating a healthy culture. What kind of culture do you want to create? I’d encourage you to spend some time brainstorming the answer to that question. When you get buy-in from your team, then brainstorm what the big and little actions are to make that culture happen on a daily basis. Leaders are culture-creators, and it’s a very challenging endeavor to create a positive culture. You don’t declare it and then leave it for a while. It takes time and sustained effort. You have to hold every manager you promote accountable for reinforcing that culture. You must give serious attention to morale, attitudes, and performance goals. Some of the most important aspects of a healthy culture are:
- Establishing clear objectives
- Communicating effectively
- Implementing an accountability-based leadership model focused on results instead of activity
- Minimizing politics
- Encouraging proactive teamwork
- Establishing effective measures and rewards
And another thing that you cannot delegate—that you are accountable for–is making things better. How things are today; tomorrow they need to be better. Use your authority not to feed your ego, but to create action plans and do something about kicking complacency to the curb. Keep raising the bar.
A third thing that you cannot delegate—that you are accountable for–is how significant resources are being stewarded. Yes, this gets done by your team for the most part, but it must always be on your radar. How are you taking care of the people and the facilities and the product and the business’s reputation?
Effective leaders act productively and decisively without having to be told what to do. They model admitting and correcting their mistakes. And they lead a culture of accountability with their entire team. And it leads to positive results and a positive environment where people love coming to work!
All high performers utilize coaches to raise their bar, to become even better on how they do what they do–and everyone below them on the org chart benefits! Is it time for a conversation about whether coaching might be one big key to your personal and professional development this year? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org (Group coaching options, too!)