Guest Post by Sean Conrad: Great Leaders Have the Power to Cultivate a Culture of Accountability


 Sean Conrad is a Senior Analyst at Halogen Software. Check him out on Google+ for more on talent management best practices.

 What does it take to build a great workplace culture of accountability that’s focused on high-performance and organizational success? Well, one could argue many factors come into play, but one of the most critical is great leadership. This excerpt from an Ivey Business Journal blog post  I came across sums it up the link between leadership and culture rather well, “A critical component of team building is culture, because if teams are to work effectively all employees must understand and embrace the culture of the particular group and business. There’s no doubt that today, a leader’s success depends on how he or she molds and develops that culture.” So if it’s a culture of accountability that you’re striving for, it has to begin with you as an organizational leader.

Accountability defined

So let’s talk about accountability for a moment. What does it really mean? Susan Mazza, co-author of, The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Revolution of Leadership One Person at a Time, and award-winning blogger at, explains that, “Accountability is the consistency with which your actions and results match your commitments. To be accountable means to be committed to honoring your word. This includes commitments as big as the results a company promises to their shareholders or the service level they promise to their customers. It also applies to the promises individuals make to each other in the course of conducting their day-to-day business.”

How do you get to accountable — from here?

Recognizing the importance of a good culture to achieving business objectives, many high-performance organizations have implemented talent management programs and activities to set, manage, and monitor their cultures. Of course, in order to be successful, these programs must be supported and championed by organization leaders (otherwise the whole exercise is doomed to failure).

As a business leader, how can you and your organization drive greater accountability? Read on for some talent management best practices that can help.

Implement organization-centric goal management
Ensure employees throughout the organization align their individual goals with the organizational and/or divisional goals they support. You should give employees this all-important context by first setting and communicating high-level organizational goals, then tasking employees with establishing individual goals that directly link to and support these. Employees then clearly understand how their individual goals contribute to the achievement of organizational goals. This instills a sense of accountability and contribution.

Tip: In order to engage employees and foster accountability, your organization needs to have employees set SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented and time-bound.

Monitor progress on goals

Setting organization-centric goals without monitoring them will defeat the purpose of goal setting altogether. This means that for goal management to be successful, it’s critical for your organization to have reporting processes in place whereby managers regularly check in on the status of employee goals, and report that status up your management chain. This check-in provides an opportunity to identify development needs, as well as adjust goals that are no longer SMART or aligned with organizational goals. It also drives up accountability by reminding every person in your company that their work is important.

You should also have a process or system for monitoring and communicating progress on organizational goals. Research by Bersin by Deloitte shows organizations that review their goals quarterly (or more), rather than annually, are more effective at managing costs and have better financial performance.

At the end of the day, you as a leader have the power. The power and the responsibility to cause a shift in employees’ relationship with accountability and — as Mazza says, “transform accountability from a source of frustration and discomfort to a source of high performance.”

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One thought on “Guest Post by Sean Conrad: Great Leaders Have the Power to Cultivate a Culture of Accountability

  1. carolburbank says:

    Reblogged this on Lead Me On and commented:
    I love the idea of a culture of accountability, described here as “the consistency with which your actions and results match your commitments.” I wonder, though, about the assumption embedded here, seen at the end of the blog, “At the end of the day, you as a leader have the power.” That may be true for certain hierarchies, certain kinds of organizations. It also may be that there’s a better way of creating a culture of accountability. A culture where leaders “have the power” might be a culture where accountability is hard to establish among followers, who, as it follows, don’t have the power. Isn’t accountability about owning our responsibilities and celebrating our roles in an organization? In fact, it’s about claiming a role as leader, whatever our job title might be.


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