When a company has excellent leaders in place who motivate and engage the work force toward clearly defined goals, then a company is well on its way to achieving success. That’s because leadership and accountability are the keys to a strategy’s successful execution. Even though these ideas seem simple in principle, having people truly understand and take accountability for their roles and responsibilities can be more difficult than one might think.
For example, when our company’s leaders mapped out our strategy, we also discussed their role in the execution of that strategy. However, these initial discussions revealed that some leaders saw success as the mere attainment of goals, while others saw the value in the development of their people. It soon became clear that we had to further clarify our leaders’ expectations and what accountabilities they had to their people and our results. We knew that we needed to get everyone on the same page so that when we spoke of leadership, everyone’s minds jumped to the same concept. We also had to be clear that a successful leader attains results by bringing the team along in the journey.
So to elicit discussions in our twice-monthly manager meetings around the concept of leadership, we decided to start a reading program. Over the course of one year we read five books together that covered different leadership styles. The goal was to look at what worked and what did not work in the books, as well as how we were currently using these concepts or how we might see them working in the future. During the discussions, we also created a one-page document that spelled out the expectations of a leader in our organization.
In our conversations about leadership, there was much talk around accountability in regards to setting clear goals for all team members and then holding them to the results. We talked about the need to set clear and reasonable goals that encouraged team members to stretch themselves — goals that were achievable but still challenging.
One of the most important points on the topic of accountability was setting an expectation of communication. Every leader and team member needs to take full accountability for achieving results. If things are on track then the leader can encourage and praise the progress. If things are not going as planned, then the leader and the team member can work to remove roadblocks to attainment. We made it clear that the team member must take the responsibility to communicate any delays ahead of the completion date, so that the leader can assist in getting the goal back on track.
It is important to note that the idea of accountability is generally received very well by people, until they are the ones who are personally held accountable for results. The first response when things are not going well is usually an excuse: “I would have achieved the goal if …” This must be met with a reminder of accountability in building a plan to achieve results. Only when the leadership actively follows up at regular intervals will it able to help keep team members and goal attainment on track.
While having a culture of accountability and positive leadership takes a lot of work and demands role models at every level in the organization, that work will pay off in so many ways. I have witnessed a team that is confident in its roles, knows what needs to be done and will freely communicate when things are not going quite as planned. By making this leadership and accountability a priority, you’ll witness your team members embrace their work and take real ownership of what is accomplished.
Virginia Albanese is president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical, North America’s largest critical-shipment carrier. The company provides 24/7 service throughout the United States, Canada and internationally, delivering hundreds of thousands of critical shipments each year. She is also the chairwoman of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce and serves on a number of other boards to benefit the Northeast Ohio community, including Akron Children’s Hospital and The Boys and Girls Club of the Western Reserve.