10 Simple Tips to Foster a Culture of Ownership and Accountability for IT Leaders

Joanne Trotta | Monday, November 2, 2020

10 Simple Tips to Foster a Culture of Ownership and Accountability for IT Leaders

Being an effective leader is about holding yourself and others completely accountable for your mindset, behavior and performance. High-performing organizations have cultures built on ownership and accountability, which typically leads to some key strategic advantages for leaders and teams. Accountable employees are more likely to:

  • Quickly acknowledge their mistakes and failures, and focus on correcting the situation to learn from the experience
  • Not shift blame to others
  • Honor their commitments, even when they would prefer not to
  • Push through and find a way to get the job done, despite obstacles and setbacks

Are the accountable traits you desire in your employees modeled by leadership or defined within your competencies? Building a culture of accountability starts with you. Here are 10 simple tips to foster a culture of ownership and accountability within your team and organization.

How to Build Your IT Team

1. Recruit for the Right Behaviors

Hire professionals who understand and model total accountability. You have probably heard that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior — and there is oftentimes some truth in that. It is important to probe for past behaviors, actions and results when interviewing candidates to have a better idea of how they might perform in similar circumstances. Ask behavioral-based questions to seek out examples where they have exhibited the right behaviors in the past.

2. Set Clear, Measurable Goals and Expectations

Setting clear, measurable goals and expectations is where some leaders fall short. They are great at providing specific and measurable goals but may neglect the behavioral aspect that goes along with achieving objectives.

When holding employees accountable for delivering results, be explicit about the exact results you expect. Involve your team on both a collective and individual basis in the process, encompassing both the what and the how as it pertains to achieving results.

3. Delegate Proper Authority

We often observe well-intended leaders who attempt to hold an employee accountable for delivering results but limit the employee’s authority in the decision-making process — and that can send mixed messages. Common examples are not allowing employees to figure out solutions on their own, as well as selecting team members to assist with an initiative and then not allowing them to take total accountability for delivering.

If you are going to effectively hold employees accountable for results, you must first empower them to make the decisions that impact the results.

4. Check In and Review Progress

As a leader, it is your responsibility to check in, measure, track, and review results with your employees. Too often, we have seen goals developed, written down and put into a file, only to either never be discussed again or only discussed at annual review time.

Regularly checking in and reviewing an employee’s progress toward achieving a goal or project is much more effective. Use your dedicated one-on-one time to discuss progress, obstacles and achievements related to the goal. And remember, you play the role of support; they own the delivery and outcome.

5. Offer Coaching and Support

If goals, projects, or initiatives fall off track, offer your team support or coaching. Remember, as the leader, you are accountable for ensuring your employees succeed. At the end of the day, if they fail to achieve their goals, then you have failed as well. Their success is your success!

6. Feedback and Recognition

Gallup  research shows that:

  • In the past year, 47 percent of workers received feedback from their manager "a few times or less"
  • Only 33% of employees strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past week
  • Only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do their work better
  • About a quarter of all employees say the most memorable recognition they ever received was from a high-level leader or CEO, which makes praise for good work a uniquely powerful leadership tool

A company's ownership and accountability problem might be a feedback and recognition problem in disguise. As we mentioned earlier, building a culture of accountability starts with you!

7. Connect Goals to the Big Picture

Clearly define the goals and results each team member will be held accountable for and show them how this connects to the big picture of what the department or organization is trying to accomplish.

Demonstrate accountability through your own availability and the time you spend defining what your team is responsible for, and by showing them how these goals connect to both the company’s top and bottom line.

8. Share Common Goals and Objectives

It is the responsibility of leadership — both you and those above you — to establish and cascade goals throughout the organization. If you focus on the most important goals, objectives and priorities, so will your team.

Once employees clearly understand what they're accountable for, leaders must help them set measurable, individualized goals that align with each individual role. Leaders should prioritize ongoing communication about how each team member’s personal contributions and successes impact the organization's achievements.

9. Data and Ongoing Communication

Ongoing communication and providing updates on the progress of individual and collective success is critical. Employees need reliable, data-based information to course-correct achieving their goals, objectives, and respective accountabilities. When preparing to provide a progress update, look for performance-orientated data so you can speak to the behavior that has fostered the progress and success.

10. Learning and Development

As leaders of people, we must align learning, development and growth, and provide these opportunities for our teams. Gallup analytics show that millennials rank the opportunity to learn and grow as the top driver of job satisfaction, and it's high on the list for other generations as well.

Leaders who focus on employee development can better help individuals address the roadblocks that prevent them from being accountable and delivering on goals while learning and growing in their role.

Do you have any additional accountability tips you would like to share?

Managing and leading professionals can be challenging. Fostering a high-performing team or organization requires dedication and focus and is based on how well you and your fellow leaders exemplify the desired behaviors you want others to follow. 

Are you modeling the right behaviors that encourage a culture based on ownership and accountability? Leadership is an inside job — it starts with you — so take the lead today by owning your mindset, behavior, and outcomes. Then, your team members will follow suit.

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