The Undivided Life Blog


The Freedom of Accountability

communication company culture leadership Aug 01, 2023
Jeff Schiefelbein directing a commercial

When you see “accountability” listed among a company’s core values, how do you react?

Excitement?  Doubtful.

Accountability doesn’t tug at the heartstrings very often.

Instead, accountability often sounds like a burden and a need for control. But when it's positioned correctly, accountability is the  key that unlocks  dynamic work and appropriate risk-taking, ultimately leading to greater freedom in the workplace.

Floating frustration and anxiety

It can be frustrating to wait for others to finish their part of a process or to request an update, only to learn that a colleague has not started the work yet or has been spending time working on the wrong information, or that they thought someone else was handling that part of the work.

Moments like these lead to stories that we tell ourselves about why the other person is deliberately failing to meet our expectations and willfully making our jobs more difficult.

This constant style of disappointment plagues most of our workplaces and hurts our organizational cultures, but there is a simple antidote – clear accountability.

The one thing we can do to make immediate improvements is to always state who does what and by when.

Who does what by when?

Is something so simple the key to freedom? Yes.

Space is created for progress, speed, and innovation when clear ownership is established, an agreement is reached on the steps to be taken, and the expectation of exactly when an action will be completed comes together.

But let’s be clear by being clear. An owner is a person, not “we” or “they.” The owner is not going to just “research” or “think about” a problem; rather, the owner must take steps that result in an output. And most importantly, others will know when to expect that outcome using specific dates, times, and even time zones.

Pro-tip: “Close of business” is not a specific time, and it certainly does not translate well across time zones either.

Freedom prevails

When all are accountable, and the language used throughout an organization creates clarity and trust in the work, then every team member has the freedom to pursue their objectives within the stated timeframe and trust that others are doing the same.

This unleashed feeling, coupled with true responsibility, can correct the previous feelings of concern and ambiguity.

Take an inventory of the language in your organization

  • Does your team create clear ownership when talking about what must be done next?
  • Does the owner identify the steps they are going to take and seek agreement on the desired output(s)?
  • Does everyone know when the work will be complete and what to expect?
  • Are these questions accurately documented and stored or shared for easy reference after the meeting?

At Undivided Life, we empower teams to operate with great freedom by helping them embrace accountability.

Creating a company culture of accountability does not happen overnight, but you can make progress by first recognizing the need and the benefits of accountability and then being intentional about every meeting and communication thereafter.

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