Why is accountability so lacking in today's business world? Is it often due to a lack of engagement, culture or trust. These and other issues can affect accountability at all levels within an organization.

In his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen R. Covey suggests that moving through the habits has basics stages of:

  • Dependence: Reliance on others
  • Independence: Making decisions for ourselves
  • Interdependence: Cooperation with others for things we cannot do ourselves

Covey's seven habits are relevant to personal growth. However, these habits can also be adapted to the various levels in an organization. Here is how each of these habits can be used in an organizational setting.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

This habit focuses on change and what can actually be done. Change can be difficult not only for individuals but also for organizations.

Change begins from the top down. Leaders can show initiative by being proactive in the formulation of policies and procedures.

Get the entire workforce involved in giving their suggestions on how the organization can run better. Who better to ask than the employees who do the day-to-day tasks/functions.

When you involve everyone, making changes will be easier, and the organization in the end will become a well-oiled machine.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

This habit is about being goal-oriented. Does your organization have a clear mission or vision statement, clear goals or a five-year plan?

The first step is developing the mission and vision statement. These are important because they define the foundation upon which the organization flows. Once these are defined, the next logical step is setting clear long-term goals with metrics and with achievable results. Too often, the goals and metrics will be so unattainable, that in the end they will never be accomplished.

Finally, create a five-year plan outlining how all these steps will be utilized across the organization. This plan should be a document that can be tweaked from time to time, not simply completed once to set on the shelf just to mark the completed box later.

Habit 3: Put first things first

This habit focuses on setting priorities. The leadership must take the responsibility to spend the time and put forth the effort in making sure that the mission/vision statements, goals and five-year plan are priority one.

Just as in one's personal life, the organization must identify key challenges, roles and responsibilities. This is time well spent. It will not only help foster trust, but will also challenge the workforce to better appreciate and understand how they fit into the organization.

Habit 4: Think win/win

This habit is about integrity and organizational culture. A leader's best attribute is being considerate of others. The building of relationships, formulating an attitude of gratitude will help in the "win/win" situations.

Give your people opportunities to grow and expand their responsibilities. In the development of the organizational culture, reward the employees who are showing a win/win behavior and avoiding a win/lose behavior.

Habit 5: Seek first to understand

This habit is about effective listening and communication, and is probably the most important habit. Effective listening is really understanding what the other person has to say. Drill down and listen for both the feeling and the meaning.

A leader who can communicate effectively is a true gem. Not only knowing how to communicate, but also going out of your way to do so, is a great testament to leadership.

Being able to communicate is the best tool. The workforce will take greater care in making sure that will follow through. Assignments will be more meaningful and will have a greater impact on the growth of the individual and the organization.

Habit 6: Synergize

This habit focuses on creativity. The leadership within an organization must be able to leverage effective communication through mutual understanding. Barking commands to your employees will quickly turn them from wanting to do anything.

Instead, a better approach is to illicit from the workforce how they can provide a solution to a problem. The synergy that is created will produce a domino effect throughout the organization. It is the catalyst necessary in keeping everyone engaged.

The lack of this type of synergy will result in an organization's quick dénouement.

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw

This final habit has to do with growth. Growing your people helps to create balance within an organization. This will have a positive effect and help in the promotion of synergy at all levels. Just as a person must renew himself physically, mentality, emotionally and spiritually, so too must an organization.

An organization is comprised of people. These people have ideas, thoughts, emotions and even spiritual aspects that affect in their jobs. There is no better way than to tap into the talent pool that already exists. An organization's best tool is its employees. An optimal environment for growth is the best way to create an organization that will be around for a long time.

Finally, the habits that Covey talks about are just a starting point in the accountability process. Just as people do, an organization should look inward. Staying accountable will help in achieving overall success, not just for the organization but also for the workforce.