Accountability

I had a client ask me recently, ‘How do you hold people accountable to tasks they’re supposed to do?’ Of course, being the consultant, I said, ‘What do you mean by that?’ And, he said, ‘Well, I just can’t get it. When people agree to do something, and they just don’t follow up, and they just don’t deliver on what they say they’ll do. It’s as if people are just saying it for the sake of saying it.’
Exploring further, I actually found that from his practice, what he was actually doing was just saying here’s what you need to do, and leaving it at that until the very end when the results were supposed to be produced, and then, being surprised that the targets were not being met. We then came up with a number of different suggestions on how to actually hold his team to account, and I thought I would share that with you. These are some of the things I suggested…

The first thing was to actually agree on what needs to be done or delivered. Have a point of agreement with the individual on what it is that is expected. This important because some people not only like to cover what is expected, but also like to know how to go about doing that task, and I think that’s really a matter of preference, and the level of maturity that you have in your team.

My personal style is, when I’m giving tasks to people in my team, I actually prefer them to work it out themselves. I don’t like to dictate how things should be done. I say, ‘Here’s what we want done, here’s the outcome.’ My focus tends to be on outcome, and then, I say, ‘Go work it out how you will do it. By all means come back and check with me if you want to get an alternative perspective.’ But, I tend not to dictate how to do it. That though is just a point of view. As I said, some individuals like to say, ‘This is what I want done, and these are the steps I want you to follow.’ So find out what works best for you.

The second point is to agree on checkpoints and milestones, so be very specific on what the checkpoints are. For some projects it may be weekly, others it may be fortnightly, others it may be monthly. Again, this depends on the scope of the project, and the maturity of the individuals that you are giving this project to. Of course, during those milestones it’s important to gauge where we are. As projects don’t always go to plan, we do need to alter, change, and be agile, and checkpoints enable you to do that.

The third step is actually when you are talking about the milestones, it’s really important to explore what needs to be rectified to get back on plan. The whole idea of the milestone is actually an opportunity to check in, and think, ‘Okay, what do we need to do to make sure we are being aligned to the outcome?’ In other words, do we need to increase the amount of resources available? Or, do we need to in fact to change the scope of the project? Or, do we need to spread the load out a little further? Whatever it is, make sure that you are actually looking at focusing on the outcome, and what needs to be done, because you may actually find that you need to redo a contract again, or come back to some form of agreement on what the project is.

Finally, it is really important for us as leaders to provide feedback. Now, be it positive feedback in terms of what’s going well, and at the same time also constructive feedback on what could be done better, so that the people on the team understand and appreciate what’s working, and what needs to be done differently.

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