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Clarity, Responsibility, And Accountability (CRA) Model Of Leadership

If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else

Yogi Berra

According to Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index “Just 43% of respondents are clear on their organization's objectives for the year and only 46% are clear on how their work adds value to the company.”

Think about that for a minute and ask yourself “Does everyone on my team know where the company is heading, why we are headed there, how they're contributing, and how we will measure success?”

How about instead of asking ourselves these questions, send around a survey (make it anonymous if you need to) with the questions above. Don’t prompt people with a “throne speech” beforehand, send out the survey and see what the results are.

Here’s an example, a bit extreme but a true story. A consultant friend of mine has been working with a client to define their purpose, strategy, and direction. The client’s company has been in business for over five years but the exec team still isn’t in sync about the company's purpose and the direction they're headed.

Now, imagine you are one of the 120+ employees who work there. How would you feel if you knew the exec team wasn’t sure of the company’s purpose, strategy, and direction? I know I'd be craving clarity, my responsibilities, and what I'm accountable for. 

We need purpose in our companies, our roles, and in our teams. You only have to look at companies like Yahoo! to see what happens when there’s no clear vision for the road ahead. 

People are attracted to work at companies where leaders provide Clarity, Responsibility, and Accountability. 

Clarity

Without clarity and purpose, pursuing something because it is good is not good enough to make a high level of contribution.

Greg McKeown

Without clarity, we have no idea where we’re going. No purpose and no rationale why we have the workload, the tasks, the goals we are assigned to. 

Clarity provides the vision, the direction, the rallying cry, the strategy, and goals of your business and team. Clarity isn’t simply “sell more products”. Clarity grounds organizations and teams into something bigger.

Elements of Clarity:

  • Purpose 
    • Why does this company exist?
  • Vision 
    • Aspirations for the future
  • Values
    • Principles that guide behaviors and decisions
  • Strategies
    • Where the company is going and how it will get there
  • Goals
    • The focus areas that will push the organization forward to achieving its vision

(Inspiration from the above taken from Rob Cooke)

As leaders, it is up to us to define this. Whether you're the CEO, exec team member, mid-manager, or individual contributor, we all should strive for clarity. 

The how—inspired actions:

  • Take the company vision, purpose, values, goals, and strategic plan to your team
  • Ask each team member how the team will be contributing to this and write it down
  • Distill the results and there you have it, your team’s vision and purpose
  • Once you have team alignment, define what success looks like. How are the team goals going to support the company goals?

Everyone in your team should now have clarity about where the company is going and how the team will contribute to the overall success of the business.

Responsibility

Highly effective teams have clearly articulated roles and responsibilities

The Team Approach

Responsibility is taking the company’s purpose, strategy, goals and distilling this into what each position and person will own.

A company I worked for had a magic number of five responsibilities per position. If you are responsible for keeping the office tidy, call it out. If you are responsible for driving X% of new business, call it out. If you are responsible for setting the direction of the company, call it out. 

Without clear responsibilities, how often have we sat there, looked at each other and said, “I thought you had it covered”? 

I lead a digital publication team and, if we didn’t define responsibilities for each team member, it would be chaos! I am sure people would have great intentions but do great intentions produce the results we are looking for?  

In a study conducted by Effectory, 75% of employees with high role clarity were significantly more passionate about their job and reported higher levels of job satisfaction than others.

The how—inspired actions

  • List out every position in your team and write down up to five areas this position is responsible for
  • Look for overlaps within your team. If you find any, clarify which position is ultimately responsible for the area
  • Bring your team together and converse, debate, and give feedback on the role responsibilities
  • Present the role responsibilities to each team member and use this as the basis for performance, goal setting, and measuring success.

When we have clear responsibilities, work flows. When we have clear responsibilities but we keep changing them, confusion ensues, work doesn’t get done, and burnout is inevitable.

Related Read: Chasing Change, Pursuing The Possibilities

Accountability

If you can't measure it, you can't improve it

Peter Drucker

In this context, accountability is defined as the measure of success that one person is responsible for. It is how we know we are succeeding or if we aren’t. Accountability is also holding people to what they have agreed.

Recently, I committed to a deadline with my team to complete a piece of content. I set a date for completion but didn’t finish the work on time. This had happened a few times previously but I didn’t think much of it. However, my team provided me feedback on how my delays were causing an effect on our production schedule.

Holding each other accountable is critical, but we also need to define the measures of success. In the example above, success was meeting the deadline. Without it, work wouldn’t get done and no one could hold me accountable for it.

When we know how we will be measured, what success looks like, and how these measures will help the business, we see the results in business and personal growth. 

The how—inspired actions

  • Cascade the company goals into team goals into individual goals.
    • This will demonstrate how everyone is contributing to the success of the organization (no not every goal needs to align however most should).
  • Review every team member’s goals and ensure they are set with clear measures
    • Whether it's the SMART goal framework or OKRs, success must be defined. Imagine a goal of “Increase sales in North America”. I would look at this and have no idea what success actually means. Increase sales by 10% or 100%? Increase sales in 2 months or 2 years? 
    • Setting clear goals based on the position’s responsibilities, that tie into the overall company direction, leads to greater motivation!
  • Culture of open and honest feedback

Wrapping up

When we lead, we have a great responsibility for those around us, who work with us, and for our customers. This simple yet effective framework—Clarity, Responsibility, Accountability will help you lead, not only more effectively, but leading with a sense of purpose, direction, and motivation.

Use the below worksheet to help you and your team operate more effectively and cohesively.

Lead teams more effectively with our free editable worksheet.

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By Tim Reitsma

Tim is the co-founder and General Manager of People Managing People, an online publication focused on building a better world of work. He is experienced with people & culture, leadership, business strategy and operations with a focus on building great teams who are excited about their craft and their organization. With over 15 years of leadership experience, Tim has always been guided by his core values: faith, family, curiosity, and fun. He is a coach, mentor, speaker, advisor, and an active volunteer in his community. Tim loves spending time outdoors with his wife and two kids as well as mountain biking in the north shore mountains.

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