How to hold your team accountable….

Why is it that leaders have such a tough time holding people accountable? Because it is uncomfortable. Accountability can be viewed negatively and is often avoided in order to minimize conflict.  It is difficult for both parties. The manager feels bad getting tough, and the party being held accountable feels bad because it seems he is being disciplined.

Accountability lesson #1… get over it! Accountability is not negative, and to be successful you can’t avoid it.  Sure, it can feel a bit uncomfortable but in the absence of accountability a leader is highly disempowered and his team inevitably suffers from poor performance.  You can argue all you want that a progressive leader doesn’t micromanage, and that a leader who allows his people to self-direct is the leader who gets the most from his people. That is hard to disagree with. But in the end, no matter your leadership style, if you aren’t holding your team accountable important things slip!  Project deadlines are missed, quality suffers, and urgency is lost. Accountability should be viewed as a coaching moment to be embraced instead of a discomfort to be avoided. You can’t be a good leader if you avoid the tough parts of the job.

Accountability lesson #2…gain clarity…in writing.  If your team is suffering from lack of accountability ask yourself, “Is it my fault?” Or better, “What can I do to improve accountability?” The most important thing is to get crystal clear about what needs to get done, and when it needs to be done by. Is your team in the habit of making loose or verbal promises to one another? If so, begin by ensuring that the things people are agreeing to are written and documented with clear expectations and delivery dates.  Too often, parties differ on what they understand needs to get done. Follow up important conversations in writing, provide clarity and due dates. Don’t get upset with your team until you do all you can to improve clarity. 

Accountability lesson #3…wrap toughness in logic and love. Explain the importance of your requests, and the ramifications of missed promised and deadlines. Ramifications to the team, department, company, and perhaps even your jobs! Demand that communication is king.  Require that if a party agrees to do something and it doesn’t get done, that party is responsible for communicating why things are missed and what is being done about it. Last but not least, let the party you are holding accountable know that you care about him and that you have to hold people accountable.  Let him know you are doing this to help the team succeed. “I want you to succeed because I care about you. Our relationship and the success of this team is important to me. I always wished my boss would let me know exactly what was expected, that is what I am doing here.” 

When a leader increases accountability for the team, respect increases for the leader.  When accountability and respect both increase, performance increases. 

To hold people accountable…get brave, get clear and show them you care.


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