Creating an Accountable Finance Team Culture for 2017

If everyone felt accountability for their work, organisations probably wouldn’t need the management structures they have today. We all need to be ‘led’, for sure, but ‘management’, as a term most of us associate with driving the delivery of work would become almost obsolete. Ideal world talk maybe, but there is a valid point here – if your team can become more ‘accountable’, your role as a manager could become less interlinked with ‘managing’ and freer to lead and focus on more value-adding activities.

We know that accountability is widely considered to be a crucial to individual, and team, high performance. At a simple level, if you, or one of your team, feels the buck stops with them, the likelihood is the task will be delivered. Not only because accountability, when done properly, makes expectations of delivery clear, it also promotes a sense of “ownership” of the work being delivered. Being made accountable for a task, or deliverable, also engenders a sense of being “recognised” as capable of self-management, which not only breeds high performance, it breeds employee engagement.

Additionally, accountability, promotes helpfulness. Providing individuals with ownership of their work breeds satisfaction in work, and when this happens, individuals become more generous, and more likely to help others if they feel needed.

I can hear you thinking, easier said than done. Although a simple concept, cultivating a sense of accountability in individuals that don’t feel it currently is complex. So what can you do to promote accountability in your team?

Cultivating a culture of accountability starts with creating an ideas culture

Promoting accountability requires you to hand task ownership over to your employee. Instead of stating goals or cascading tasks, focus on eliciting the actions you want to see out of your team members by creating an open, discussion based environment.

Resist the temptation to ‘manage’ or over-involve yourself in the ideas process

Especially if you’re a new manager, the tendency to ‘manage’ is strong. Resist this temptation, and focus instead on how to construct the right structures (meeting slots, brainstorming sessions, regular reviews) and a positive culture (receptive to all suggestions, bad and good) to promote ideas and engender ownership for initiatives.

Be clear in expectation, and follow through on agreed actions, without consistency

Transforming an idea into an action that the team member takes full ownership for requires clear communication. Seek clarity in what they’ve promised to deliver, encourage the creation of a plan, with measureable outcomes, and create a timeline with check in points as appropriate. Be positive in the purpose and potential outcome, as above, and offer any support required.

Then – crucially – step back

If you’ve created the right conditions, the team member will feel not only accountability, but a desire to fulfil the objective to help you, and the team, succeed. Interestingly, this process can be as simple as just a shift in mind-set. Remember that people, in the main, come to work with good intentions, and that often a perceived/displayed sense of lack of accountability may actually signal more a lack of motivation, or engagement, than a fundamental personality flaw or lack of care. So, next time you’re trying to engender a sense of accountability, ensure you think about who has the ‘ownership’ first.

From the team at Barden, we wish you a prosperous and successful 2017.

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