“Can you hold me accountable?” “He/She needs to be more accountable.” We hear phrases like this in the workplace often, but how well do we understand accountability, and how it can enhance our work? Today, I am going to argue that accountability is SIMPLE and can change the way you work. First, let’s start with what accountability is vs. what it is not.

Accountability is…

  • A willingness to remind others when they are not living up to the performance standards of the team
  • How someone fulfills his/her commitments and helps others fulfill their commitments
  • The elimination of surprises, increased job satisfaction, and improved performance

Accountability is not…

  • Negative or only associated with people getting punished for mistakes
  • An assertion of power, in fact accountability does not require power at all
  • Retroactive. Those best at accountability are proactive and understand the big picture

Improving accountability within an organization leads to individuals reclaiming ~2.5 hours per day, improved confidence, and long-term growth. It is evident that accountability leads to success, but we often fail, at following through on our word, because we do not know what to do or how to do it. If this resonates with you, then I recommend the SIMPLE framework, as an approach to improved accountability.

S: Set specific expectations. Ambiguity creates confusion and stagnation. When roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, we ensure alignment and allow for bilateral accountability. This entails using simple, detailed, straightforward language (verbal or written).

I: Invite Commitment. Gain buy-in and secure verbal commitment on the task at hand. A lack of confirmation on responsibilities can lead to misalignment and disappointment.

M: Measure Progress. How will you measure success if progress is not tracked? Schedule check-ins, to show that you are prioritizing the work and partnering to achieve success.

P: Provide Feedback. Feedback opens the door for problem solving discussions, early issue resolution, and follow-up discussions. View feedback as a partnership; the giver and the receiver are both mission-driven and have a common goal of success.

L: Link to Consequences, Rewards, or Impact. Incentives motivate, and effective leaders understand how to motivate those around them to achieve a common goal. Think about what motivates the people you work with and how to apply consequences, rewards, or impact to improve outcomes.

E: Evaluate Effectiveness. Measure the extent to which the goals were met. This step involves self-reflection and collaboration, as it is helpful to get bilateral feedback on what went well, and what could be improved in the future.

Consider ways that you can apply the SIMPLE methodology in your day-to-day work to improve accountability. As you may have realized, accountability is 90% communication and 10% problem solving, so as a first step, consider your communication style and how it can be leveraged to support accountability within your organization.