The Importance of Making Goals and Accountabilities Clear to Your Team
Our organizational alignment research found that the clarity of goals and accountabilities accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing teams.  Just think about it.  If people on your team are unclear or in disagreement about what they are trying to achieve, why it is important, and how to make it happen, how could you expect your team to perform at their peak?

Leaders that excel at making goals and accountabilities clear, have 58% faster revenue growth, 72% greater profitability, 3.2-to-1 more customer satisfaction, and 18.8-to-1 higher levels of employee engagement.  In short, higher clarity leads to higher results.

When Goals Are Missed
Meeting important goals is at the heart of high performance.  Yes, there are situations when goals are missed based upon acceptable excuses.  For example, it would be difficult to hit growth targets if your clinical trial was a failure or if you ran out of raw supplies.  But missing goals should never be expected nor should falling short be accepted without a thorough postmortem of what went wrong.

A critical part of the goal setting process is to set goals that are achievable and worth pursuing in the eyes of those who must attain them. 

In fact, effective goals must be clear, relevant, meaningful, aligned, fair, consistent, accurate, trusted, timely, measurable, transparent, urgent, and just possible (challenging, but in your control).  If missing goals becomes a pattern, your performance environment is in trouble.  How can you put together a winning team if you can’t count on meeting the targets that you set?

Accountability at Work
What is accountability at work?  Accountability is about delivering on a commitment – in other words it is about taking responsibility for achieving goals and outcomes and it should be a value held across all levels of an organization.

What Does It Take to Make Goals and Accountabilities Clear to Your Team?
Accountability at work depends on five best practices:

  1. Setting Crystal Clear Expectations
    When it comes to goals and accountability, ambiguity is your enemy. Everyone should be able to articulate not only what you are trying to achieve but also how both success and failure will be measured.  Strategic clarity is where it all begins, and there should be no question about why goals matter personally and professionally.

  2. Exposing and Managing Performance
    Once performance expectations are clear and agreed upon, it is time to monitor and communicate progress. In a high-performance environment, people know where they stand in terms of their performance results (the What) and the behaviors they exhibited in achieving those goals (the How). 

    Those who meet and exceed targets should be rewarded accordingly while under-performers should be supported to improve performance or asked to move on in a way that makes sense.

  3. Providing Support and Ensuring Capabilities
    Too many goals, even clear and meaningful goals, are missed because people lack the required skills, knowledge, motivation, resources, or support to succeed. During the goal setting process make sure to discuss what is needed for success and then create a practical plan to fill any gaps.  Remember, it is the responsibility of every leader to ensure that your team is set up for success.

  4. Having Ongoing Feedback
    Managers should meet regularly with their team and meet one-on-one with each team member to keep priorities front and center, monitor progress, check assumptions, get and give feedback, identify barriers, and make the inevitable adjustments required to achieve objectives.

    You will know you are on the right track when people believe that their feedback is heard, well-received, and followed up on.

  5. Establishing Consequences
    It is a manager’s job to either reinforce positive progress toward the goal or apply consequences for the lack of progress or accountability. Rewards and recognition are effective motivators and incentives; consequences show that changes need to be made.

An Added Wrinkle
As clear as you are within the team on expectations and responsibilities, some corporations are so large and their structures so complex that accountability can get fuzzy – especially when results depend on cross functional, matrixed, and often siloed teams whose work processes are constantly evolving.  And there’s the added complication of employees who can hide failures by blaming others, citing circumstances beyond their control, changing metrics, reorganizing, etc. 

To counteract this additional challenge for multi-level, global, and matrixed corporations, business leaders need to make an all-out effort to  identify and counteract the reasons for ambiguity by clearly establishing the individual who will be ultimately responsible for each goal, and the executive sponsor accountable to see the goal through from beginning to end.

The Bottom Line
Accountability is essential to business success and is a pillar of a healthy corporate culture and employee engagement.  Can you honestly say that goals and accountabilities are clearly set at your company at all levels?

To learn more about how to make goals and accountabilities clear to your team, download 7 Immediate Management Actions to Create Alignment with Goals

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