Does the voice in your head ever say “Why won’t they just step up and be accountable?
You’re far from alone. Many managers frequently feel this way.
Are you one of them?
Do you know one of them?
Do you feel frustrated at how much of your time is wasted because they just won’t step up?
Why does this happen, and what you can you do to fix it?
Success in business relies on an interactive combination of three things:
- A logical, commercial element delivering a difference that customers are willing and able to pay for now and in the future.
- An emotional, behavioural element. How our people and customers feel about us, particularly trust us, so they want, and do, keep coming back.
- How well we identify and validate gaps in the above and then take effective action to address them.
1. The logical element
How well does the employee ‘get it’ and understand what they are really responsible for?
Questions they will need answers to include:
- Where does this fit in?
- Who needs this?
- Why is this important?
- What is success?
- What standards are needed and why?
- How fixed are those standards?
The end goal – a defined area of responsibility with clear goals and expectations, and a series of clear written steps that anyone can pick up and follow. All very logical.
So what’s the difficulty?
Have you validated they know the answers to the above?
Is your natural preference for order and structure?
How good are you at actually getting that structure in place yourself or leading others with strength in structure to do so?
Those whose strength is spontaneity, creativity and freedom, as is often the case with entrepreneurial business owners, struggle to ‘download the dongle’ of the accumulated experience in their brain, put structure around it and clearly share it with others.
What they consider as blindingly obvious is as clear as mud to others who feel uncomfortable at not ‘getting it’, reducing their confidence and effectiveness.
Q. So are you really putting enough order & structure around the area of responsibility?
2. The behavioural element
Accountability needs responsibility to be given and accepted. Taking the example that you want to teach someone to ride a bike.
One approach is to give them the bike and tell them to just ride it (abdication), another is to forever hold onto the back and continually shout in their ear exactly what to do (micromanagement) until they tell decide they can’t or won’t take it anymore.
Learning to ride unaided needs growth in skill and confidence, trial and error and a transition to finally letting go.
This is rewarding for both parties; freedom and self-validation the individual gets from doing it, and the fulfillment that you get from seeing them succeed.
But reality follows feelings – I will resist being held responsible for something to which I have not agreed. If I’m party to a discussion and agreement where my views are listened to and incorporated, I’ll be more willing to commit. If I don’t feel that you trust me I won’t trust myself and look for what I’m doing wrong.
Q. So how well are you creating the environment for success?
3. Feedback, validation and action
The final element is to agree the communication loop of feedback, validation and action so that you can keep a finger on the pulse, without having to have a finger in the pie.
What are the indicators that give you comfort that all is well?
What immediately puts you on the alert that something might be amiss?
What are the triggers that send you into fear of failure in a heartbeat?
Once you identify these, including them in your validation process will give you the comfort that you need and them the benefit of your experience.
Accountability also requires transparent disclosure. Do your reactions encourage others to be transparent?
If your reactions make others feel defensive, their actions will range from self-preservation and avoidance, window dressing and sugar-coated half-truths.
They might continually check-in that what they are doing is ‘right’ or simply moan about you behind your back. Your behaviour may be completely unconscious but if you’re not the first to know, odds on your behaviours are causing others to hold back.
Going back to 1 and 2 above, defining clearly when and how people should raise concerns, being honest about your trigger points and how they can best be managed, and having the humility to apologise when you do react will ensure your team continues to want to be transparent and feel accountable.
Q. So, how would you rate yourself ?
Q. What would be the benefit of you leading the way and role-modelling accountability as a verb rather than a noun ?
How comfortable would you feel giving this article to your team, asking them their opinion of you on the questions and taking on board their comments?
Final thought – and if you’ve validated that you are and have done all of the above, then it might be time for a honest conversation?
What’s ‘mind the gap’?
Mind the gap is dedicated to sharing knowledge and information on how to close the frustrating gap between your goals and outcomes at work. If you’d like support in minding the gap or have an area of focus that you’d like included, call 07751 979683 or email [email protected]
About the author
Angela Dellar is a professionally qualified business growth and leadership coach specialising in growing business emotional intelligence with individuals, teams, and boards. She then blends this with a lifetime of practical, hands-on business knowledge and leadership expertise to facilitate their success