How do you hold people accountable?
I’ve written a little about it when I learned the phrase “Say-Do”.
And I think OKRs help tremendously. I can’t imagine creating an accountable culture without OKRs or a similar framework. They are designed to be visible so that the entire organization can see objectives (goals) and key results (measurement) that a person, a team, a department, and the company itself is responsible for. The right OKR system is inherently accountable.
Lots of startups and high-growth companies struggle with how to hold people accountable, but at some point it has to be solved. It’s OK to lack a framework for accountability in the beginning when you have a small team because everyone has their head down just blocking, tackling, and executing. Stuff gets done in a small team.
But that doesn’t scale, and to maintain your ability to execute and achieve goals you need a framework for creating an accountable culture.
Without this, things will flounder. And without this, you can unknowingly create a toxic culture where employee engagement and productivity really suffer.
But holding people accountable can be difficult for founders and early-stage leaders. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s easy to spot when this is happening, and it’s easy to solve. It just doesn’t always feel like it’s an easy solve if you haven’t created an accountable culture previously. It can feel daunting and murky.
I’m not sure why holding people accountable feels harder than it actually is. I’ve muddled through it in the past myself before the lightbulb went off.
Of all the advice I can give, I will tell you that it starts with numbers. What gets measured gets improved. People (and teams) need a number to hit (something measurable), they need to know what the number is and how to achieve it, they need to know why that number is important, and they need to work in a culture where there is transparency and support when numbers are hit, and when they aren’t.
Numbers create accountability. When you have a number, everyone knows what the expectation is. All accountability begins with clear expectations, and nothing is clearer than a number.–What the Heck is EOS?
Here are 7 tips for holding people accountable:
- Create a core value of accountability. Describe what accountability looks like in your organization. Then live the value, recruit for the value, and applaud the value when you see it in action.
- Adopt OKRs. Or something similar. You need an organized, methodical system for setting transparent goals and measuring progress.
- Adopt a quarterly cadence. Quarterly goal setting helps you learn quickly and adjust targets as needed. It’s also a digestible time period—long enough to gain traction towards a goal, but short enough that goals can stay prioritized.
- Develop an operating system. Create an operating system for how you run the business that includes communication, collaboration, transparency, alignment, and cadences.
- Use scorecards for the company and for departments to track & measure key metrics. These should track key metrics and leading indicators. Keep the scorecards front and center so they don’t get buried or forgotten. Make them part of the pulse of your organization.
- Keep things visible. Everyone should know how they, their team, department, and company are doing. Everyone should know the vision and strategy of the company, and how what they are doing fits in.
- Adjust. If you keep up with your operating system, scorecards, OKRs, and cadence, you will learn along the way. Some goals were too lofty. Others weren’t lofty enough. Sometimes you bite off too many goals. Take a learning approach to constantly refine and improve how you hold yourself, your company, and your people accountable.
Don’t worry, just do it.
If you are worried about how your staff will react to being held accountable, I can tell you that most people appreciate the clarity that comes from an accountable culture. It’s far less disruptive than you think it will be if you communicate well, gather input, set the right tone, and follow-through. The right people—the best people—want accountability.
Accountable people appreciate numbers. The right people in the right seats love the clarity of knowing the numbers they need to hit and enjoy being part of a culture where all are held accountable.-What the Heck is EOS