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Sunday, 23 December 2018

How Do You Hold Your People Accountable? Who Holds You Accountable?

In October 2009 I was in a breakout session at the Vistage Chair Conference where the topic was Accountability.

We all had to decide on a task that we would work on for the following year and another member of the group agreed to hold us accountable (if you see what I mean)

I agreed to hold a colleague accountable for a very long list of actions and another agreed to hold me accountable for my decision - that is, to write a regular blog.

I haven’t had a call from my colleague for ages but after three weeks of writing the blog on a Sunday, it has now become a (very enjoyable) habit and rather to my surprise this week’s is number 500 in the series.

It is worth considering how effective are the accountability practices in your business, that is, assuming that you formalise accountability practices anyway.  It always surprises me that important tasks can be allocated to people and then not really checked and monitored until completion or not as the case may be.

One of our US Vistage speakers, John Johnson, has an excellent pro-forma template which he uses to monitor progress in the implementation of strategic plans and there is no reason why it should not be used in a wide range of activities in a business.

In essence there is an overall champion allocated to make sure that all activities are being carried out as agreed, with other people holding the individual accountable for separate parts of the task.

All in all, the maxim of "monitor, measure, evaluate" makes sure that tasks are completed with a modicum of supervision and just enough to ensure that effective communication is established.

Too often work is allocated without even a timeline, and then the individual is left to get on with the task without supervision and seemingly a complete lack of interest in what is happening.  One of the most important factors in completing any task is to define its purpose – why is this needed and what can I do to accomplish a successful outcome.

Then if something goes amiss, the task goes over time limits which hadn’t really been communicated properly in the first place, results are not forthcoming or worst of all, the “I wouldn’t have done it that way” syndrome kicks in.  Question: have expectations been clearly defined?

If we delegate tasks then we delegate responsibility for successful completion of that task as well.  This, in turn, implies that we give our people the courtesy of expectation of success and give them the freedom to achieve it.

The quid pro quo is, of course, that as a consequence they are held accountable for the progress and finalisation of the task and it is this that is frequently lacking.

It is a simple task to reprimand someone for not achieving expectations but it is equally simple to eliminate the problem by the practice of accountability.

If we monitor, measure and evaluate together then successful completion of the project is far more likely than if we just leave our people to get on with it and just hope that all will turn out well.

Big caveat!  This is not an open invitation to micro-manage the team member.  Rather it pays then the compliment of setting mutually agreed expectations, then letting them get on with the job while offering assistance and encouragement as necessary.

There is nothing so depressing as a constant flow of questions as to how a task is progressing and indeed it takes the eye of the ball rather than concentrating effort.  Trust is essential and equally leaders need to be kept abreast of activity.  The answer is a bullet point report from the team member, say, once a week to the leader together with any problems being encountered.  The leader then needs to back off and let the team member get on with it. 

It’s not easy but absolutely essential.

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