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“Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result.” Bob Proctor

What erodes morale and engagement? Productivity and profits? What eats away at an organizational culture like a virulent disease until all that’s left of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation is an empty shell? Lack of accountability. It is deadly. But some organizations are fighting back – and winning.

A General To Lead the Charge

To address the pervasive lack of accountability, one intrepid tech company, who wishes to remain nameless, is adding another seat to the C-suite. The newly appointed Chief Accountability Officer is charged with ensuring employees, and other executives, live up to their responsibilities, uphold deadlines, attend meetings, refill the coffee pot when it’s empty, and do not cut in the cafeteria line. “Holding other people accountable,” says the new CAO, “is a full-time job.”

It has also proven to be a controversial one. “There was a lot of back and forth about this role and what we wanted. Some of us,” says the COO, “envisioned a crossing guard type model. You know, someone with a whistle and stop sign to alert people when they were in danger of failing to meet an expectation. Others didn’t want a CAO at all because, really, we should be able to cut ahead in the line. I have an MBA.”

Tensions rose in the ranks when a flood of resumes came in for the new “Chief Accounting Officer” position. While just a simple typo in the job posting, the error inflamed head of accounting, who felt he should have been given top consideration for the nonexistent role.

A Box of Crayons for Every Leader

Despite the inevitable bumps, the change has produced results. The company project manager, for instance, recently prepared a 40-page report when all the Marketing VP wanted was a one-pager. “He blew the entire project budget on the brief! I told him to put something together for the client. What was I supposed to do, write it in crayon?”

In fact, that’s exactly what the CAO opted to do. Despite evidence that suggests a majority of employees find crayon-based communications to be “condescending” and “wildly inappropriate,” he implemented a color-coded strategy to boost accountability. Executives now put all of their expectations in writing: red indicates “You better get this right,” while green conveys a more flexible “Do it your way, but make sure it aligns with my way.”

“This is working. The numbers really tell the story,” the CAO says. He didn’t actually have the numbers prepared in time for publication, but he assures readers that they do, in fact, speak volumes.

While retention (the project manager and head of accounting have since found other employment) and employee engagement have experienced slight dips, the C-suite is hopeful that accountability will become an ingrained part of company culture. What about in your company? Are you ready to get serious about accountability? Hopefully you’re more serious than this article. Please don’t hold us accountable if you actually follow this (non)advice.


Larry Hart

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