This last post in the Value to Vision series deals with how to create a culture of accountability because even the very executable plan you read about in the previous post will experience “failure to launch” without accountability.
Not Micro Management
In cultures like North America where no one is responsible for anything and everyone is a victim the idea of accountability quickly gets labeled “micro management.” So, let’s debunk this first. It’s not. If you look over someone’s shoulder while they work, if your fingers are on their keyboard, or if you check in with them a dozen times a day then you might be a micromanager. However, in my experience true micromanagers are extremely rare. What really happens is that someone who doesn’t want to held accountable for their work, responsible for their decisions and prefers to play the blame game throws out the accusation of “micromanagement!” as a way of escape.
Ability to Give Account
Accountability is exactly what the word says. Account-ability. It’s the ability to give account, to tell the story, to give an update on progress and struggles in executing a responsibility, action plan or project. When I ask someone where they are on a particular task what I’m looking for is information, a story, an update. “I’m here” or “I’m behind” or “I need more resources” or “I could use your input.” When a teammate can give a blame-free story on where they are three important things happen:
- They get to tell what they’ve accomplished–a cause for thanks and celebration.
- They get to ask for assistance–an act of maturity and professionalism.
- I get to move on about my tasks with closure.
These are all good and foundational to actually implementing your plan.
Cadence of Accountability
So how do you do this? How do you let people know they will be asked to “give account?” How do you do it without becoming a burden or a blowhard? Here are three steps that I’ve used for the past 40 years with success.
Step #1: Collaborate – Let people participate in the creation of the plan as much as possible so they understand what the action, task, project or initiative actually is and have their fingerprints on them.
Step #2: Empower – Ensure people fully understand that they own the project, what the project actually is, what resources are available, the timeframe and, most importantly, what the outcome you desire actually looks like. Make certain that people know the extent of their authority to make decisions relative to the project with and without consulting you.
Step #3: Support – State your intent up front to check in on a regular basis and why you are doing it. Establish a rhythm or cadence for checking in. In my experience a monthly status call involving everyone connected to the plan works well. In less than an hour, everyone has a chance to update the team, get help, surface problems, and exchange a few high fives.
Accountability does several powerful things for you and your team. First, it greatly increases the odds that you will implement your plan. Second, it exposes and repels shirkers and blamers early; you don’t need them anyway. Third, it rapidly matures and develops your current and future performers. Fourth, it feels good for those who do the work. Fifth, it makes your job 10,000 times easier.
So, go do it!