One of the top responsibilities of management is to hold their teams accountable. However, most leaders struggle with actually accomplishing this task. The topic of accountability is often associated with negative situations and unpleasant conversations. When leaders talk about a lack of accountability on their team, it can come off as threatening or condescending, damaging morale. Though many leaders try to avoid it, there will inevitably be times when they will have to hold their people accountable for poor performance. However, lack of accountability is often unintentional, so the best leaders know to look for the underlying issue. To get to the root of the problem and improve accountability, managers should start by asking the right questions.
- Did I Set Clear Expectations? This question is the first and most important step to improve accountability and improve productivity. Managers should ensure they have clear expectations and have communicated them to their employees. Ambiguous deadlines, unclear instructions, and lack of clear goals are often to blame for incomplete projects or lack of progress on an assignment.
- Did I Check-In Effectively? After setting expectations, managers should check in to find out if their team has any questions or concerns along the way. For example, if a large project is assigned, schedule check-in conversations at regular intervals to determine if the project is progressing as planned or if there have been any unforeseen challenges. Allow team members to explain how they are approaching the task and listen to any concerns they may have. These check-ins will help manage realistic timelines and make sure that expectations stick.
- Did I Ask if They Need Help? If expectations are clear, but you discover that a project is not completed or goals are not being reached, it might be time to offer some help. This conversation should be approached with curiosity to get to the bottom of what is going wrong. Was the timeline unrealistic? Was there an unexpected absence that delayed the work? Do they have the tools they need to complete the task at hand? Do they have the skills they need to perform well? Managers should keep an open mind during these conversations and really listen. If people feel defensive, it can be more difficult to get to the root of the problem.
Creating a culture of accountability is a challenge for most leaders. Accountability starts at the top, and asking these three key questions can help any manager to drive better results and build stronger, more productive teams.