Leaders Build Trust by Practicing Accountability

The Second Wave: Relationship Trust

Building the Wave of Relationship Trust requires deliberate trust-building behaviors.

There are five competence-based behaviors: delivering results, getting better, confronting reality, clarifying expectations, and staying accountable. We’ll also explore the “counterfeit” versions of these behaviors. A counterfeit behavior is one that looks like the trust-building behavior, but instead of building trust, this behavior is distorted into something that tears trust down.

This week: Practice Accountability

Hold yourself accountable first, and hold others accountable second. Take responsibility for results when they’re not up to par. Be clear on how you will communicate how you’re progressing on projects and how others are progressing. Stop avoiding responsibility. Likewise, avoid pointing fingers when others cause difficulties or make mistakes.

The opposite of Practicing Accountability is refusing to take responsibility. Whereas refusing to take responsibility can be rare, a common “counterfeit” version of this behavior is Pointing Fingers and Blaming Others. Pointing fingers and blaming others can be overt or it can be done in a smooth and calculating way. Pretending to have high standards for others while not enforcing consequences when expectations are not met also fits into this “counterfeit” behavior.

When I ask leaders about their biggest people problem, they’ll often pinpoint work “accountability.” When I dig further into what they mean, I learn accountability isn’t the problem, per se; rather there is a lack of clarity of expectations. Sometimes, work doesn’t get done because employees haven’t been specifically asked.

What to do instead?

Say things like this:

  • Here’s what I’ve done…
  • I’m responsible for…
  • Please return and report your progress by…
  • How will we hold ourselves accountable?
  • What are the consequences for not delivering?
  • How and when will we meet to track progress?
  • Here are the expectations we set. How did we do? I understood you were going to get this done by [deadline]…
  • I’ll take responsibility for that.
  • Fault me, not the team.
  • Did we deliver the expected results?

Stop being vague about progress. Practice Accountability to build trust.

Next week: Listen First.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

See more blog posts on The Speed of Trust.

#1: Leaders Invest in Trust
#2: Credibility Gaps: Leaders Know the Waves of Trust
#3: Behavior, Credibility, and the Wrong Kinds of Trust
#4: Leaders Know Credibility is Driven by Behavior
#5: Build Trust by Talking Straight
#6: Leaders Build Trust by Demonstrating Respect
#7: Leaders Build Trust by Creating Transparency
#8: Leaders Build Trust by Righting Wrongs
#9: Leaders Build Trust by Showing Loyalty
#10: Leaders Build Trust by Delivering Results
#11: Leaders Build Trust by Getting Better
#12: Leaders Build Trust by Confronting Reality
#13: Leaders Build Trust by Clarifying Expectations

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