How To Create Accountability In Your Leadership Team
An employee is terminated but when their colleagues go to human resources to shed light on leadership improprieties, they are informed that there were other issues at hand and quickly dismissed.
A new president takes the helm at the company, and spends the first year making significant impact, plenty of allies and great results. Then in the second year, they abuse their influence, trust and power in such a way that those who hear of the change in the leader’s stripes are under their spell and ignore the concerns, or at least minimize them.
Executive leadership hear about the temperament of a particular leader in their organization, but tell everyone that’s just how that person is and it’s not a big deal. To the executives the leader gets great results but to the employees in the know, the leader is abusive and plays favorites.
These three scenarios all have the same core problem – the leaders in the organization have failed to create a working measure of accountability for their leaders.
It’s interesting to see how managers give reviews to their employees but the reverse is not true. In many organizations, the leader’s accountability is to metrics, sales and stock price, and not to behaviors and employee well-being.
A systematic change to how the organization ensures leadership accountability, adopted and implemented fairly from the top leadership, will help transform the leadership culture in any workplace. Here are some foundational steps in which to accomplish true leadership accountability in your company.
- Publicly commit to change. Organizations should speak with all leaders and all employees to inform the change to culture and the overall goal of fair standards of accountability to leaders as well. You will need to set clear expectations to your leaders beforehand and release those who don’t by in immediately. By proclaiming this to the entire organization, you are also setting yourself up to be held to this initiative form employees. It’s the necessary start but scary for all involved.
- Ensure proper processes for concerns. Create your process for voicing concerns – whether from employees, poor leadership performance, or observations of behavior. Refine as you go but ensure everyone knows who and how to properly question leadership, whether it’s direct talk to the leader themselves without repercussions or bullying, or to their leader or HR. Creating the processes to foster this culture change will strengthen the success of accountability.
- Investigate ALL concerns. A company that truly values the voice of it’s employees will check into any and every concerns raised by them, not matter how insignificant. It’s more than just saying you value them by celebrating their work anniversary or pointing to your core values, it’s when sensitive situations arise that the organization and leaders truly tell the employees how they value them. Do not dismiss any concern, even from the supposedly poorest performer or employee that is a “troublemaker”. Favoritism and assumptions in any form is not a true pathway to true accountability.
- Act like the issue actually occurred. While the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” should be held throughout all items, what does that mean for the claimant of an infraction of leadership? By excusing a claim away, you are basically stating that the person raising the question is guilty of fabrication, which is a guilty charge. All parties should be held to the same standard, and both be innocent until proven otherwise. By acting on the claim itself you consider the innocence of all involved until there are enough empirical facts to render a fair decision.
- Take the personalities out of the equation. As mentioned before, sometimes organizations dismiss employee concerns because of an employee that’s a chronic complainer or stirs the pot. And those companies often ignore the bullying and lies of a leader because they’re a dynamic public figure, great personality, and/or get great results. Personalities will lead to a subjectiveness that taints an objective look into the concern being brought forth. Remove the person and concentrate on the issue to ensure fair accountability.
- Check your biases at the door. The unconscious – and conscious, deliberate – biases that many individuals have can marginalize the most legitimate concern before it starts. It can unconscioulsy let a leader off the hook and denigrate the culture as well as those who are being silenced. Biases are not limited to race, gender and culture, they can be held to appearance, economic status and even personalities. Again, it’s another aspect to taking personalities out of the equation, but by looking omre at the internal biases of those are responsible for keeping accountability fair.
- Don’t take a leader’s word just because they are a leader. Studies suggest that 60 to 96 percent of people lie, and the numbers suggest that leaders do it more than employees. So given that the majority of leaders have empirically told a lie, why should a company give carte blanche to a leader to take their word at face value? Until proven out, any allegation towards any leader should not be excused away because of their position. In fact, it should be more closely scrutinized and proven out.
- Consistency proves out your true accountability. Employees align with culture based on the observations of their leaders. When leaders aren’t open to and held accountable, employees disengage, but when leaders are held to that same standard as others, employees take quick notice and will slowly start to align when they see consistency and fairness and leadership behavior align as well.
Holding leaders truly and consistently accountable is probably the most difficult part of culture that any organization will ever undertake. A company that exalts culture, values and mission to be more important than any one individual who doesn’t truly align with them will be a mindset that allows this change to properly manifest.
Pledge as a leader to allow yourself, and your leadership team, to be subject to checks and balances that will create better engagement and ultimately better results in the performance of the entire team.