I talk a lot about the importance of connecting with people, believing in people, giving the benefit of the doubt, those types of things as a leader. These characteristics are critical when you lead a team or you’re working with others. It’s so important, and we can’t stress enough how important it is to connect with your team. At the same time, you as a leader are also responsible for getting results and holding others accountable. This can actually be one of the most challenging aspects of being a leader. Can you be a leader who drives accountability and results and at the same time be a human being that connects with your team? The answer is yes.
So, let’s break this down a bit and see what it looks like. For starters, evaluate whether or not the expectations for your team and team members are crystal clear. That is, if you directly asked a person on your team what they believe the results are that you’re looking for or what results they are expected to maintain, is what they tell you exactly what you are looking for? Are you completely aligned on that piece? If not, you have to do some work here first.
Really think about what are those measurable things that define success for each role. Not necessarily the process or the steps to get there – that’s a little bit different. But what are the actual results that you need for each position or role? And only when your team is aligned on that piece can you really get accountability. You have to start here. Even if your team does know the expectations, that doesn’t always translate into action. If you’re not getting the results you expect, then you kind of have to evaluate instead where people are along a spectrum of continuum of accountability. On one hand of accountability we have that full hand of accountability and ownership where somebody gets the results despite challenges or obstacles in their way. The other end of the spectrum is apathy. Where people just seem to not even care about the results. The reality is that most people are somewhere in the middle. They’re not on either extreme. Maybe they need to be a little bit more accountable, but we know that they at least care. One step above that apathy is more of that victim or blame mentality where they either blame another person or department for not getting them what they need or they blame some external factor outside of the organization such as a labor market or the economy. We’re going to address that issue here in just a minute. Even one step above that is more of the I see that there are some solutions or strategies, I understand what I’m supposed to be doing, but you hear language like, “I’ll get around to that. I’m going to try to do that. When I have time I’ll be sure to do that.” But this type of language always leaves the door open to not getting results because we haven’t 100% committed. You’re just kind of wishy-washy about it. You need to begin to ask questions that create more of a commitment and give deadlines for projects and tasks. You can facilitate a conversation and ask questions like, “When can I expect you to finish this task?” or, “When can I expect you to give me an update on this project?” These types of conversations increase that level of commitment if they are done in conjunction with frequent check-ins and follow through. This gives you an opportunity to give the person some feedback about how they’re doing and kind of hold people to those commitments and deadlines.
So let’s go back to more of that victim or feeling that some people have that they can’t control the outcome or they can’t influence the outcome. That conversation needs to look a little bit different. Instead you can facilitate questions like, “What steps have you taken so far to remove that barrier?” or, “How can you achieve the results in spite of that challenge?” “Rather than focus on things that you can’t do, can you think of things that you could do that would help move the needle in the right direction?” Those are some of the types of questions that you want to ask to help people envision and see where they actually have some control or influence on the results. Then you go back to some of the things we talked about earlier where you are gaining commitment as far as deadlines and dates that people will check-in with you, provide progress updates or give themselves deadlines on when they are going to complete specific tasks. Again, accountability only works when there are frequent regular check-ins to increase that follow-through and accountability.
We need to help people move towards full accountability where they take ownership for the results. This includes feeling empowered to seek out assistance even when they don’t get what they need from you or another person in the organization. They have to be willing to fight for the results and not give up too easily even when there are challenges. That is true accountability. Making things happen despite obstacles. Do you need to increase the accountability on your team?
What are you going to do?
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