Accountability for Leaders

One of the top 3 questions on leadership is how to hold people accountable.

Holding people accountable is tricking because a lot of folks are aggressive or hostile when they do this. We learn from watching others, we think we need to be negative, but we don’t want to be.

Well, you don’t have to be combative.

One thing to keep in mind, first, is that you’ll have to use that memory of yours. Boost your memory, boost your leadership. (And, in my courses that’s what we focus on.)

We’re also going to throw out a lot of previous advice on accountability. Not because it’s bad, but because it over complicates things. And overcomplicated techniques lead to failure and frustration.

We want this to be simple and successful.

Here it is: use reminders.

Don’t just use any reminders, use gentle reminders. (See what I did there? I use the word ‘reminder’ a bunch to remind you to use reminders.)

When you lead a team, you have people that need to do stuff by a certain time, and you want to hold them accountable to that. So, after clarifying your expectations with folks…

1) Remember WHO is doing WHAT by WHEN
2) Understand the time gap between now and the due date
3) Pick out 2-3 times prior to that due date to remind the person of their deliverable
4) Remember to remind the person of their obligation
5) Remind them in a gentle and casual manner

For example, let’s say today’s Monday and you need something by Friday, remind the person Tuesday afternoon and Thursday. On Tuesday, say something like “how’s that [deliverable] coming along?” And on Thursday, say something like “is that [deliverable] going to be on time for tomorrow?”

The best way to remind the person is if you see them in the break room or if you bump into them in the hall. You can even just-so-happen to walk past their desk on the way back from a meeting. Make the occurrence casual to make the question feel a bit easier on the person.

(I do something I call a Walkabout, where I get up from my desk, walk about the office, and check in on my teammates and co-workers. I find time to do this every day.)

Notice, these are softer questions. “How’s this coming along” opens up the person to ask for help or let you know if they’re struggling. “Is this going to be on time” allows you to share the effect if it isn’t, so the person can take it more seriously.

These questions also clarify the expectations. As people think and work on stuff, questions and concerns come up. These gentle reminders ensure an opportunity for people to clear up any confusion. It’s helping to course correct.

Some of you might be thinking this is too obvious or easy, but in all my years of leading people, very few actually do this. I stopped counting all the teammates who tried to blame a delay on someone else, only to tell me they expected them to deliver on the due date, but they never reminded that person even once. (Inconceivable!)

Alright, your turn. Review the process we just went over, set it to memory, and practice.
Use your Mind Runs.

This should make holding people accountable a lot easier for you. No more confrontation or hostility.

Not only will people deliver better and on time, but it should make you feel better about asking.

After a while, teammates will start to get your update ready. You’ll start to see this. Co-workers will see you heading toward their desk and prepare for your questions.

Or, they will walk into the break room, see you pouring a cup of coffee, and spin right back around and come back later when you’re not there! (Don’t let them get away; get that update.)

Accountability made easy.

Now the trick is how do you remember to remind people. You’ll learn that in the third lesson in this series. Head back to my Free Training page, right where you found this lesson, and get started boosting your memory.

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