I am getting tons of questions lately around: “How do I make my people accountable to deliver on their objectives?” Leaders will often add something along the lines of, “since COVID, nobody seems to care about the business anymore.” While the latter is a topic for another day, it kind of ties into accountability from the perspective of team members being burnt out and fatigued by what they have gone through in the last three years.
But this is about driving accountability.
First of all, people have not stopped caring about doing good work, or caring about how they contribute to the success of the team or the company. That is not in the DNA of people. And fortunately, accountability, or lack thereof, is something that leadership can fix.
Instilling Accountability in Teams:
- First off, as yourself: Is it part of your culture? Yes, accountability needs to be something that you design into, recognize and reward for in your business. Leaders need to create crystal clear clarity for the entire team around where the business is going, why and what each team member’s role is in achieving the plan. Just like talking constantly about values, purpose, vision and strategy needs to be part of daily life as a leader, so does relating it all back to how people can contribute to it.
- Lead by example – It is not a ‘bottom-up’ thing. Seems basic… however, I make a living out of working with organizations that are, as Ozzy Osborne suggests going off the rails on a crazy train. I get to go into businesses where the leaders have said one thing and done something different and then they need me to come in and fix the lack of trust. And, accountability is NOT a bottom-up thing. Leaders canNOT expect their people to be accountable if senior leadership is not.
- Clarity around project ownership. As a leadership consultant, I often get to sit in meetings at the back of the room and observe leaders talking about a project and what the plan is to start and deliver a project. They have lots of slides with groovy graphics. They talk for 57 minutes in a one-hour meeting and then tell everyone to go out there and “do us proud!” Problem is, everyone in the room leaves wondering who is doing what? Last time I checked, most people have not learned how to read minds. Do your team a favor and be crystal clear as to what is to be delivered, who is responsible for what, what done looks like and by when.
- Catch people doing things right. Accountability also comes from doing regular governance (inspecting what you expect) with the team. With the regular check-in’s on a project or action plan, you get an amazing opportunity to recognize people who are doing what you expect. Leaders always catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!
- Quality feedback (no surprises). When I come into a business and take on a leadership role, the one thing I always tell people on my team is that I do not like surprises. Please keep me informed about what you are working on and what obstacles you might be facing. I do not play the blame game (ever). I do not micro-manage. All I want to know is what do I need to be aware of so that I can support with in various other channels. The same holds true for team members I lead. I will give real time, honest feedback on how I am ‘perceiving’ their role within a project. I want every team member to be success and feel recognized and rewarded for doing a great job. If something is not being delivered as planned, I want to give a team member the opportunity to learn, grow and develop. Feedback is always coming from a place of caring.
There is more to it than all of this. And when these basics are followed, you will see significantly better results from your team members – and along with that, higher levels of engagement and ownership (and, isn’t that what accountability is?).
Robert Murray is a Vancouver, BC based Business Strategy Consultant, #1 Best Selling Author, International Keynote Speaker, and TEC Top Speaker of the Year for 2018. For further advice, insight and inspiration on how to unlock your inner leader, connect with Robert on LinkedIn.
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