Nearly every leader we talk to, whether it be in a workshop or as part of a coaching session, wishes their teams would be more accountable for results. They often feel like the weight of the organisation is on their shoulders, that they are the ones working their butts off to achieve results, the ones working long hours to get stuff done and that their teams are just doing their jobs, going home and having a great night’s sleep with no worries at all. Now, I’m sure that is not true, but in relation to the accountability they feel they have, it seems like their teams have a lot less. And they, quite rightly, ask how they can increase the level of accountability their direct reports feel so that that accountability can be shared across the team and not just sit on one person’s very broad shoulders.
At this point in the conversation, we usually ask some tough questions of the leader. Because in our experience, invariably they are creating this situation to some extent. There are 6 things a leader might be doing which robs the team of accountability:
- Giving the team the answers
- Expecting a lack of accountability
- Making all the decisions
- Demonstrating a lack of composure
- Being closed to others’ ideas
Do they need a lot of control over specific tasks the team completes? Do they check in on work too much? Micro-managing can strip the team of accountability. If this is the case, which tasks could they let go of a bit more, whilst still feeling informed? They need to agree with team members how they can keep them informed rather than checking in on decisions or plans of action.
- Giving the Team the Answers
When their team members come to them for decisions or advice, do they just give them the answers, even if they’ve had the same conversation many times before? This can be a quick fix for them and it feels good to be helpful, but are they just firefighting all the time. If so, they can think about asking a few more questions of their team members the next time they come to them: “What do you think we should do?” or “What options have you considered?”
- Expecting a Lack of Accountability
How involved do they expect to be in decisions and tasks on a day to day basis? Do they expect people to involve them in most things? Do they get involved in conflicts between team members? Do they expect the team to come to them about most things they’re working on? If so, they need to think about how they can change their own expectations of the team – turn their expectations into them being accountable for more and think about what behaviours they can demonstrate to reinforce that.
- Making all the Decisions
Do they find themselves making all the decisions for the team, no matter how big or small they may be? Do they find that when they are out of the office, decisions get delayed until they come back or they’re interrupted whilst they are away? If so, they need to think about how they can change the way decisions are made in the team. They should agree with the team what decisions they can make on their own / in their absence and when they should escalate to the leader.
- Lack of Composure
Do they express how they feel about things really overtly to the team? Do they sometimes express negative emotions a bit too openly with their team? If so, they need to think about the possible impact this may have on their team and how accountable they may be prepared to be as a result. When a leader lacks composure, the team may fear making the wrong decision in case they experience the leader’s disapproval or frustration.
- Being Closed to Others’ Ideas
Do they shut down other people’s ideas? Do they think there is a right and a wrong way to do things? Are they closed to ideas that are not their own? Think about how you can be more open to other ways of doing things. Can you ask your team for their ideas about how to approach something and remain genuinely open to their thoughts? This will encourage accountability in the team.
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