Sound Bites

Don't Be Afraid of Alignment and Accountability – They're Gifts!

with Deidre Paknad, WorkBoard CEO

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If you are a rising leader — or even a senior one — who finds the words "alignment" and "accountability" difficult to say or communicate, or they sound too tough or too utilitarian and feel awkward: Here's another way to think about it.


Imagine the opposite of alignment and accountability. The absence of alignment is a purpose void: "I don't know if this work matters. I don't know if it's important." And the absence of accountability is apathy: "I don't care, and I don't think anyone else cares about this work I'm doing either." In the absence of a clear definition of success, the outcomes for which a person is responsible, and the outcomes that we collectively are striving towards; in the absence of that clarity, we have no sense of fruition or fruitfulness of our efforts. And it's easy to think, "I don't know if our leaders know what they're doing or where they're going because they can't or haven't painted a clear picture of success for me. They use a lot of words, and they have a lot of themes, but it's all doublespeak. Or maybe they're not saying anything at all." And then people are left to wonder, "Why am I here? What am I working towards? What are we working towards?"

Now, our teams are not our family. It's not enough to just be together. Team members, and teams themselves, come together in pursuit of something; and in pursuit of winning together, they need meaning, accomplishment, satisfaction, reward, recognition, faith or belief in the value of what they're doing, and boundaries that provide confidence, not confinement. And the absence of those boundaries creates randomness and chaos. And from those, anxiety. Aligning on outcomes means creating clarity of purpose and a strong sense of the value we will create together, which reinforces the team we're on and how we win together. And ownership and accountability create simplicity that allow people to prioritize what matters in an incredibly noisy and distracting world. Knowing what we own and what we have ownership and accountability for reduces our anxiety, it doesn't add to it.

Alignment and accountability are gifts for your team members, and they're the job of leadership.