A couple of years ago, I read Rudy Giulani’s book, Leadership. As I read his book, the one thing that kept screaming out at me was the importance of accountability. According to the big NYC man himself, accountability was one of the major keys in changing the culture of the New York City government – which in turn helped change the culture of an entire city.
Crime rates went down. Morale went up. The culture of New York City seemed to change in just a matter of a few years - and according to Giuliani, it mostly due to accountability. Giuliani took the bold step of holding his people accountable for their actions (or lack thereof...)
Holding people accountable isn’t always easy – especially if it’s not built into the culture of your organization. When we began our organization’s turnaround, accountability was not high on the list – if on the list at all. For the most part, leaders (both paid and volunteers) could do a great job or a "not-so-great" job and the consequences would pretty much be the same.
When we decided to hold people accountable for their actions it was a tough move. Suddenly, things that were “ok” before were not ok now. A good job wasn’t acceptable – it had to be great. Promised follow through was no longer optional. If something was promised, that “something” would have to be delivered.
Now, a couple of years later, accountability has been built into the culture of our team.
If something is promised, we will make it happen.
If one of us drops the ball on something, we know that ultimately it falls on our shoulders and responsibility is taken.
Excellence isn’t encouraged, it is required.
Did creating a culture of accountability happen overnight? No way! It was tough. I’m pretty certain that one of the reasons that accountability isn’t easy is because if often requires confrontation and uncomfortable conversations.
Of course, having a “team” environment makes the accountability thing much easier, because everyone is interested in the entire ship moving forward VS. individuals just being interested in their own, personal agendas. We want every area to succeed – even if it means jumping in and helping to make it happen.
On the other hand, “teamwork” can’t be an excuse for not working hard on one’s part or having to always cover up someone’s lack of focus or productivity. That’s where the accountability thing kicks in.
What about accountability in your organization? How do you hold people accountable? How about those of you involved in a non-profit organization where you are constantly utilizing volunteers? How do you hold your volunteer force accountable? Share your thoughts!