Are you having the right conversations to ensure people are set up to deliver what they are accountable for?

As in all aspects of leadership, accountability is rooted in conversations: both the conversation assigning the deliverable and the conversation after the result was either delivered or not. Given many companies’ shift to remote work for an undeterminable period of time, it is likely that maintaining a culture of accountability is a forefront concern for managers and executives. Follow these guidelines for an effective conversation for accountability.

The Set-Up Conversation:

Think about the last time a member of your team did not deliver on something you were expecting from them. Before you talk about what they did wrong or how they let you down, first think about the conversation you had when you assigned that deliverable.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Were you clear in what you were asking them and what you were counting on them for?
  • Did you give time and attention to making sure they didn’t have any questions?
  • Did you ask what might get in their way, so as to surface any potential barriers?

If a person or team regularly doesn’t deliver on what is being asked of them, it will make a difference if you begin to bring some curiosity to the situation in the form of those and other questions.

The Accounting Conversation:

In The ‘New Math’ of Employee Accountability Insigniam’s founding partner Shideh Bina speaks of accountability as a reckoning of behavior, or action taken and not taken that delivered or didn’t deliver the promised result.

In coaching executives, we often discuss conversations they have when holding someone accountable. Here is some of what I coach them on in order to have those be productive:

  • The reason to have the conversation is not to assign blame or fault, but to reveal the action or lack of action that led to the result, and elicit a commitment on what action will be taken going forward.
  • Accountability is agreed upon; when you have a conversation with someone assigning a project and or a deliverable of some sort you must be clear as in: “I am counting on you to deliver x by y;” then ask the person if they are clear on what they are being counted on for.
  • The ask must be clear “x by y” or it can’t be agreed upon. Imagine signing a contract with blank deliverables or dates on it – you wouldn’t, would you?

Account for Success Too:

Accountability conversations should be had when someone delivers the result and when they don’t. The point is to identify the actions taken and not taken that produced whatever result you have. By using these guidelines, a conversation about accountability can become a powerful and rich conversation about action.

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