If there is one thing that managers cringe at, it’s holding their employees accountable without looking like a dictator. There may be a “CYOA” (cover your own ass) culture in place; or, there’s backstabbing on the scramble up the corporate ladder; or finger pointing and a “not my job” attitude, and all these contribute to the difficulty of holding people accountable.
However, there is a way to hold people (including management) accountable for their own decisions, work, and results, and still keep an upbeat, positive and supportive atmosphere.
How much control do people actually possess in their work? Are they made to feel like nameless cogs in a machine, or as valuable team members?
Many managers micro-manage and deprive people of the chance to get things done in a way that works with their unique talents, skills and attributes. The most effective organisations make everyone feel that they have influence. When people feel heard and appreciated, they increase their investment in their work.
But if they’re told what to do and HOW to do it, they feel dis-empowered and even if they have a brilliant idea that could significantly increase productivity… they won’t share it.
So as a manager, it’s in your best interests to engage your team, share your vision, appreciate their input, and let them put their own spin on “how” a goal will be achieved.
Clearly define the results you need from each team member, and let them have a fair amount of control on how they deliver those results.
Honesty, Integrity and Transparency
When you ask your team, “How is that project coming along?” what is their reply? Do they sugar-coat problems, amplify problems, give an honest assessment of progress and challenges, or just say, “pretty good?”
As a manager, you must offer a non-threatening environment for people to tell the truth: no blame, no shame, just an empowering question such as, “how can WE move past this challenge and what do YOU think we can do about this?”
There should never be a “need to know basis” about a company’s struggles. If employees know what the organisation is up against, and they are engaged and share your vision… they will rally and likely come up with innovative ideas and solutions.
Trust and Support
While you have certain expectations of your employees, they likewise have expectations from you:
- That they will be rewarded for their efforts
- That they are treated with respect
- That they are adequately trained (you would be surprised at how overlooked this is – but expecting results from people who don’t know how to achieve the results, is not only unfair but a huge waste of time and effort; up-front training is essential!)
- That their input is valued
- That they are given a chance to produce results in the way they do things best
- That they are supported in their decisions (in those instances where a decision has to be made in the heat of the moment, without the guidance of a manager)
- And that they feel like a part of a team with a shared vision
When your team trusts you, they will follow you to the ends of the Earth.
People need to know exactly what is expected of them and what they are accountable for. As a leader, you must be clear, concise, and open to feedback and questions.
You must effectively communicate the company’s vision and direction – and when there are multiple goals that may contradict each other or require unsustainable stretching of resources, you must communicate priority so that your team knows exactly what is truly on fire, and what can be done once everyone can catch their breath again.
The essence of easy accountability is making people feel like they matter, and that their efforts matter – and when there is a problem and something slips through the cracks, focusing on a way forward rather than on whose fault it was.