When I work with leaders, I find many struggle with holding their staff
accountable. They are unsure how
to build a culture of accountability. I believe it is important to position caring and kindness at the center of all accountability actions and it is the responsibility of the leader to make that happen.
Let’s explore a few critical steps toward accountability…
1. Start with compassion
The most important thing leaders can do is demonstrate authentic care and compassion for their staff. Get to know each individual as an individual. Learn their career aspirations, strengths and challenges, preferred ways of working with others, and communication preferences. When a staff member is struggling, offer understanding, support, and an attentive ear. Truly care about your team’s success.2. Demonstrate accountability
As leaders, it is tough to ask our staff to be accountable for their actions if we are not accountable for our own. We are all human; we will all fail or make mistakes from time to time. When leaders make mistakes, admitting these forthrightly to the team and discussing take-aways from the situation can help build a culture of acceptance and learning.3. Establish clear expectations
The idea of SMART goals first appeared in November, 1981 in the Management Review article, There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives, written by Doran, Miller, and Cunningham. SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. This is a great guideline for leaders, yet I also think we have to go beyond this idea and consider organizational vision and strategy, what motivates individual team members, how to recognize and reward desired actions, and how to tie goals into an individual’s desired career trajectory.4. Request a written plan
Ask your staff to create a plan on how they will accomplish their goals. Document the plan with a few brief bullet points for shorter goals, or a full-blown project plan for more complex goals. Having a plan in writing will help determine if your team has considered all aspects of the goal. Do they have the right resources aligned? Have they allowed enough time for each step? Did they consider dependencies? A written plan also helps you, the manager, conduct accountability conversations that may be needed.5. Follow up on progress
Paying attention to and appreciating work in progress are great ways to recognize your staff. This is not about micromanaging. It is about acknowledging each staff member’s contributions to their goals, while also offering the opportunity to discuss how work is progressing and how you might assist in overcoming barriers. For complex goals, pay attention to the timeline and see where progress may be lagging. You may have to ask your staff to update the plan and assess risk. I typically encourage staff members to work to reach the original deadline. However, there are occasionally real organizational reasons for making a shift to the timeline. Whatever the case, ongoing progress assessment is critical for building success and accountability.6. Coach for success
If an individual requires extra attention or is not performing as expected, consider using coaching methods to address performance issues in a constructive, compassionate manner. As a Certified Professional Coach and a Certified Emotional Intelligence Coach, I train leaders in the use of coaching techniques, which use a series of strategic questions to help an individual formulate a plan for their own success. If you want to learn more about these techniques, contacting a certified coach may be helpful.
It truly is possible to balance compassion with accountability. In fact, it is the best way to build a culture that values and practices accountability throughout an organization.
Juli Geske-Peer is the founder of Peer Performance Solutions which helps organizations and individuals to maximize performance. Juli has extensive experience in strategy development, leadership, and operations.
Juli will be giving away two Executive Coaching sessions at the PWH Leadership Summit.