Kelly Brown says that creating a culture of accountability can be simple. SIMPLE is an acronym for remembering these six key principles: setting expectations, inviting commitment, measuring progress, providing feedback, linking consequences, and evaluating effectiveness.
Unfortunately, in our culture today, accountability is most often seen as a negative or punitive action. Too often accountability shows up when something goes wrong, and people are looking to lay blame. One of our challenges as leaders in the church world is to start making accountability a positive and supportive action.
There is a great quote along these lines from the book, Winning with Accountability, by Henry J. Evans. “Accountability should not be defined as a punitive response to something going wrong. Accountability means preventing something from going wrong.” This is exactly how I would encourage us to start seeing and communicating accountability.
We need to be sure that accountability comes at the beginning of ministry, not at the end. As we do this, we are creating a culture of accountability. No matter how well organized we are, if we don’t have a culture of accountability, the strategy and organization is worthless. Our focus needs to be on seeing more fruit in our ministry due to a culture of accountability. It is not about a culture of fear or creating stress. In fact, if we are encountering fear and stress, that might be a good sign we are not communicating accountability correctly.
So how do we go about creating a culture of accountability? Well, that is SIMPLE. SIMPLE is an acronym used to remember the six keys for holding others accountable in our ministry.
“S” stands for set expectations.
We cannot hold accountable for that which has not been defined. It all begins with clearly communicating expectations to another person. Never assume. If the expectation is for someone to be on time to a meeting, clean up after an event, etc., then say it. All the other elements depend on first setting clear expectations. In some cases, these expectations may be in the form of a goal.
“I” stands for invite commitment.
Commitment is an interesting area. We cannot really make someone be committed to something. It comes from within. However, we can encourage commitment and add fuel to the fire when we recognize commitment in someone. Where possible, ask them to be involved in or at least have a voice in the setting of expectations. This is a powerful way to increase commitment.
“M” stands for measure progress.
The follow-up and check-in dates should be agreed upon at the same time we are setting expectations. This does not have to be formal but should be expected and not a surprise.
“P” stands for provide feedback.
This element goes hand in hand with measuring progress. These are the conversations we have as we are measuring progress. Be honest — don’t sugar coat it. Don’t make them guess how they are doing. As leaders, this is our opportunity to ensure success and keep them on track before it is too late.
“L” stands for link to consequences.
As with all elements of accountability, our goal here should be to focus more on the positive and less on the negative. What will happen if we are successful? That would be a positive consequence. To a lesser degree, we may need to share what would happen if we were not successful. Keep the focus on the mission of the ministry and not on punishments.
“E” stands for evaluate effectiveness.
As leaders we need to keep our focus on the results, not on the effort. This is very hard in ministry. We tend to mistake any performance concern with the person themselves. If the goal and/or expectation is for someone to share our church’s current budget information with the Leadership Team each month and they miss three meetings, then they did not meet expectations. It does not mean the person is a bad person but was just not effective in this area. Something will need to be addressed. When we as leaders say nothing, we have just approved the performance.
In our churches, our goal should be for everyone to hold one another accountable for their commitments in a positive and productive manner. Accountability is born when two or more people know about a commitment. This is a short but powerful statement. One of the most powerful aspects of small groups, Sunday school classes, Celebrate Recovery ministries, and other groups is how people are encouraged to share struggles with someone who can hold them accountable in Christian love. This is exactly what we are talking about today — the sharing of commitments with someone so that there can be true accountability.