A myriad of unique challenges confront today's workforce, from managing remote teams and remaining agile in a rapidly evolving digital landscape to leading intergenerational workforces and developing next-generational leaders. In this complex world, where digital disruption is happening everywhere and the new watchwords are speed and agility, it's easy to get buried in the complexity.
How do leaders hack this complexity?
This question is at the heart of Propeller, our newest leadership book, which reinforces the needed simplicity: If you want to accelerate change, the only way to do it is to get accountability right.
When people in an organization make the personal choice to rise above circumstances and develop a CEO mindset -- one that exhibits high levels of ownership and problem solving -- they are much more likely to focus on solutions instead of the problems that plague every organization today.
According to our new Workplace Accountability Index, organizations with higher accountability scores also score higher on being seen as a speed to market leader. In a landscape where every company feels heightened pressure to optimize operations and introduce new products to consumers quickly, it turns out that the level of accountability in your workforce determines speed to market.
The good news is that leaders can cultivate accountability. Here's how:
Everything Begins With Clear Results
Getting accountability right begins with clearly defined results. What is it exactly that employees should be accountable to achieve? Rather than penning a laundry list of lofty wishes, it's important that leaders focus the organization on three to five concise outcomes that are critical to success. They should be meaningful, memorable, and measurable, making it easy to generate buy-in from every member of the organization and track the goals throughout the fiscal year.
While this step may seem obvious, the Workplace Accountability Index reveals that 63 percent of employees say there is not always a clear plan or vision for successful execution. If team members are unclear when it comes to targets, how can they possibly be expected to hit those targets?
A Simple, Classic Model With Modern Applications
Once these key organizational results are identified and all members of the organization are aligned with them, leaders build an accountability mindset in the workforce following a simple model we call the Steps to Accountability:
- See It -- Seeking feedback to identify critical gaps in information and performance. By seeking feedback, employees see the objective reality of their circumstances and identify problems proactively.
- Own It -- Taking psychological ownership to close those gaps -- regardless of role or title. By taking personal psychological ownership, employees own the role they have in creating and changing circumstances.
- Solve It -- Finding solutions to the toughest problems hampering success through creative problem-solving. By ideating creative fixes to pain points, employees solve significant problems.
- Do It -- Executing the most effective solutions for maximizing performance. By taking decisive action, employees move the needle on topline objectives by implementing solutions and producing progress
Leaders who align teams around shared goals and encourage a pattern of solutions-driven thinking and behavior see high levels of organizational accountability, leading to higher levels of employee engagement, accelerated speed to market, improved rates of growth, and maximized bottom-line performance.
With accountability firmly rooted in an organization's culture, all members of the organization are well-prepared to proactively solve the business's biggest problems and drive progress toward desired organizational outcomes.
Positioning Your Organization for Long-Term Success
Maintaining a competitive edge in rapidly evolving, highly disrupted markets requires equal amounts of accountability in the workforce. Accountability must scale alongside complexity; otherwise, gaps in performance grow wider and even harder to correct over time.
Taking accountability and ownership for delivering consistently high performance requires a strong sense of resolve on the part of organizational leaders and team members. Such resolve inspires all members of an organization to embody optimism and dedication when pessimism and resignation might be expected, to take ownership even when blaming others seems justifiable, and to operationalize strategy and deliver on innovative solutions when giving up feels easier.
This is the mindset speed to market leaders exhibit to get ahead -- and stay ahead.
This essay speaks to the ideas discussed in Propeller (Penguin, 2019). This leadership book was written to help leaders get accountability right in an ever-complex world by building on the classic wisdom of The Oz Principle and 30 years of experienced insights. With modern-day business applications, these ideas inspire a whole new generation to tap into the incredible power of personal, team, and organizational accountability.