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Accountability: Emerging Leaders Series

Accountability is a tricky thing to get right. Come on too strong, and you risk alienating the team and breaking apart any positive culture you try to create. Come on too weak, and you put developing respect and confidence at risk. Emerging leaders struggle here. Actually, many experienced leaders do as well.

Looking at Accountability through a Gapology lens requires a different mindset. While people often think of accountability as a process of discipline, write-ups, or counseling sessions, we look at this much differently.

Accountability is a mindset, a way of believing, that winning leaders have. They feel, deep down, real responsibility for their team, results, and actions. Accountability is created through this sense of ownership in all areas of their leadership life. As a professional baseball player looks up his stats on the giant scoreboard in the outfield as they step to the plate to take a swing, winning leaders look at their own results and do their best to improve them. It is self-accountability, but in some ways, it is more than that. Holding oneself accountable is the easy part, hold ourselves accountable to the teams we lead, the results we produce, and the customers we impact requires much more effort.

Luckily, in Gapology, we provide some tips to create a culture of accountability for teams and ourselves.

  • Set Expectations. Learn what works. Seek out behaviors being delivered by your top players and learn what is repeatable. Then set those behaviors and those results as your expectations. Make sure everyone understands and believes in them.

  • Follow Up. Expectations aren’t a “one-and-done” or a “set-it-and-forget-it” process. Build a systematic approach for following up on your Leadership Rhythm, where you observe the execution of your expectations and then provide recognition or coaching for your team members’ performance.

  • Keep Score. Establish a reinforcing loop where you analyze the results metrics to provide data around execution that can lead to accurate, proof-based coaching around what is working and what is not.

  • Transfer Ownership. At some point, your team members must accept responsibility for acting. Once you’ve followed the previous steps, along with closing any Knowledge Gaps, you can confidently transfer the ownership of the execution to your team. Many emerging leaders keep owning the behaviors themselves here and fail to look at the team for execution. Don’t make that critical error. When you fail to transfer ownership, your team will notice, and your leadership ability will come into question, negatively impacting the culture.

The Accountability Root Solution falls under the Action Gap, which is ultimately owned by your team. Remember, however, that establishing a culture of accountability, once the Knowledge and Importance Gaps are closed, is your responsibility as the leader and an incredibly important part of your ability to motivate and inspire the people you lead. Set the foundation first and then act.

*Listen to our podcast discussion on this topic here:


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