The 4 Pillars of Effective Accountability

I have always believed in accountability. Trust, transparency, and achievement of goals were ingrained in me ever since I can remember.

In 2006, when I accepted a new management assignment, I was introduced to the concept of focusing on people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. I was torn. I perceived a great chasm between what I believed deep down in my heart and what I was being asked to do. My natural inclination was to identify gaps in performance and close them to achieve success, and I felt I was being asked to solely focus on people’s strengths and completely ignore their weaknesses.

The longer I reflected on this dichotomy, the more it didn’t make sense and the more it bothered me. Surely my director wasn’t asking me to ignore performance deficiencies. It didn’t add up.

So, I had a candid conversation with my director and shared what I was feeling. Her response was a breath of fresh air. In her steady, assuring, and compassionate manner she clarified everything.

No, I wasn’t being asked to ignore performance difficulties. It was quite the contrary. I had to work through them, as I normally would. However, I would approach performance management from a place of strength. My role was to guide employees in self-reflection, so they could leverage their strengths to improve performance. This was a complete relief. It was also the beginning of my passion for learning what inspires people to bring their best to work.

Over the years, I have added more tools to my leadership toolkit. In spite of this, my inclination has never changed. I still focus on accountability and achieving measurable results. However, I also have a hunger for learning what engages, energizes, and inspires people.

It’s through this dual lens of accountability and employee engagement that I developed the 4 P’s of Accountability™.  This framework balances the love for people with the desire to drive performance.  I cover this in more detail in my book, Supportive Accountability: How to Inspire People and Improve Performance. Here are some excerpts that highlight the fundamental principles:

The 4 P’s of Accountability™

As a leader, an essential part of your job is to get work done through others. You’re responsible for holding yourself and employees accountable for meeting performance goals and objectives.  To accomplish this, focus on the 4 P’s of Accountability – people, purpose, performance, and progression.1       

  1. People – People matter. People are your organization’s most important resource.  People drive performance – not technology, performance goals, strategy, or anything else. As you promote accountability, help people feel safe, valued, and cared about.2
  2. Purpose – The goal of accountability isn’t to punish, but rather to create a supportive work environment where employees can thrive and drive performance. In this vein, the purpose of accountability is to advance your organization’s vision, focus on achieving goals, empower employees to perform, and account for progress and results.3
  3. Performance – Accountability focuses on performance and ensures everyone is contributing to the organization’s success. Focusing on performance improves morale. As you focus on performance, don’t compromise your integrity or ethics. It’s equally important to avoid the appearance of compromise.4
  4. Progression – Accountability requires progression, the act of moving forward through continuous improvement until performance goals are achieved. When employees are doing well, it involves catapulting performance to higher levels. When employees are struggling, progression is the act of moving forward to help employees meet expectations.5

Effective accountability is a balancing act. While it’s essential to ensure employees are meeting performance goals and advancing the organization’s priorities, it’s equally important to create a supportive work environment where employees can thrive and bring their best to work.

Accountability matters. But people matter more.

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1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Melena, Sylvia. “The 4 P’s of Accountability™.” Chap. 10 in Supportive Accountability: How to Inspire People and Improve Performance. La Mesa, CA: Melena Consulting Group, 2018. Excerpts reprinted with permission.

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