This week an executive asked me for techniques on accountability.
How do we hold our teams and colleagues accountable? And how
to we provide feedback when they don’t hold up their part of the bargain?
The simple answer is trust. When there is trust in the relationship, people can set goals that both parties will agree to, and they can
have open conversations when things don’t go right.
- Get Buy-in: When developing goals, do you get buy-in from everyone involved? Do you listen to the team’s input? Or do you sometimes create unrealistic goals to please management? That can demotivate the team. Your team, and other departments, are often on the front line. They know what’s possible. If they are getting in their own way or creating obstacles, forcing won’t help. You need to listen. It’s a leap of faith, but often people want to move past their stuckness and will do so if you listen well.
- Manage external pressure — Feeling under threat reduces creative problem solving. Managing pressure from external forces, like management or other departments, will make your team more relaxed.
- Communicate difficult feedback effectively — Give others the benefit of the doubt. And model that ups and downs are opportunities for learning. Be accountable for your own failures, and also be forgiving of yourself. When you provide feedback about someone else’s failure, make it a learning moment. Is the failure a chance improve the process? Did the team not have their heart in it (circle back to “buy-in” above)? Was it a smart risk that didn’t go the way you’d hoped? And focus on the person’s intention. Most mistakes come from failure of action, not intention.
It’s human nature to want to do a good job; to want to be accountable. The more we can remove the shame or discomfort around making mistakes, the more our team and colleagues will step up.