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Accountability is not taboo

by | Apr 22, 2021 | Leadership, Teams

Imagine you are on vacation. Soaking up the sun, lounging in a chaise chair fumbling with those little umbrellas that go in your tropical drink. Then you shoot up in a panic.  Racing through your mind are questions: “Did I hand off the right tasks to the right people?” “Will my business burn down while I’m gone?” “Will Jane finalize the reporting so accounting doesn’t miss a deadline?” The questions can be numerous, so I’m going to share a secret with you. One that will allow you to sit back, count the number of drinks you consume by sticking umbrellas in the sand instead of counting the number of tasks that will be missed while you are gone.  

Accountability is “the state of being accountable, liable or answerable”. There is a misconception that the best way to hold someone accountable is to hover over them, to repeatedly ask the status of a project, basically beat the results you want out of them until they are so frustrated they capitulate and deliver mediocre results. That sounds like micro-management. In the words of my 9 year old niece, “that’s icky”. 

What are the most effective ways to hold someone accountable? It all starts with trust. Build a bank of trust with your teams. Praise them when they succeed. High five them in public and acknowledge their accomplishments. Teach them by showing them. Walk side by side with them until they understand the tasks you are requesting of them. Be a direct communicator that sets expectations clear and own when you miss the mark. When you make a mistake restore your integrity to the entire team so they can see that you are creating safe places for people to make mistakes and learn. Then, and only, then can you correct someone in private driving for the outcomes you desire. 

As an organization we hold each other accountable. We call each other out when we miss a deadline. We do not accept excuses. We deal with the topics at hand in real time. When someone misses a deadline I ask “is this something we can get done in the next “x” days or is there a blocker we can help solve for you to move this forward?” We come together to solve problems and that can bring us into what could be perceived as conflict. We hit that head on, solve the issue and we don’t hold grudges. We deal with the miss in real time and then put a process in place such that it doesn’t happen again. 

You may be asking yourself, “what tools do you use to keep everyone on track”? How do I know who committed to what and by what date will they have that completed? We use to track our regular meeting cadence that includes the action items we each committed to and it holds our parking lot so we have a place to bring up topics and problems we face along the way. Our team built software to solve a problem we experienced as a team, accountability. allows us to quickly solve problems that come up during the week, hold each other accountable to the action items we take, and in turn we have a platform to hold each other accountable. 

The reward: we have increased our teams’ productivity, we are all empowered to work on a level playing field and our individual contributors have helped us solve some challenging problems. This brings us closer together, and allows everyone to feel a part of a powerful team accomplishing amazing things.

If you want more information on how can assist your teams increase productivity feel free to reach out.


Written by
Kathy Mayfield


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