Through the eye of the leader: What happens when a team or team member fails to deliver what they are accountable for?
I am back to continue our conversation on Accountability. In my previous newsletter “Holding Others Accountable, Are you Really?” I offered some insight and areas to consider on this slippery topic of accountability that eludes many leaders.
Invariably, when a situation or a project does not go as planned, something has gone wrong with the understanding or clarity of expectations. In this article I will explore when accountability fails through the lens of the leader. In my next article in this series, I will discuss what happens when accountability fails at the employee level.
In my last article we explored the conditions that need to exist for your team to accept responsibility for delivering their results. In summary:
- Employees know what is expected of them.
- Employees are capable of performing the work.
- Employees are supported in the physical environment in which the work is done.
- Employees have the willingness to accept accountability.
- Employees create and maintain positive and healthy Interactions.
So, what happens when accountability fails? A natural, initial reaction may be to find fault, blame someone, and then punish the presumed guilty. However, you the leader, are the individual who is truly accountable for the delivery of the work that you and your team produce. The buck stops with you. Therefore, I suggest that it is more useful to first take an inward look and reflect on your own actions and behavior. If we don’t seek to rectify our own behavior first, we can’t expect a different result from our team.
Your values and integrity guide your decisions. These decisions will determine what you will be known for, as a leader. If you believe that holding yourself accountable is a core value that drives high performance, then ask yourself: “Am I willing to take an honest look at my own responsibility for this failure?”, and if so “What will I do about my own behavior?”. The following are some questions and potential actions to consider when investigating your own contribution to the missed deliverables:
- Clarity! Did I really make sure that all the conditions listed above were in place for my team?
- Course corrections! Did I see that some of these conditions were not being met and yet failed to take corrective action?
- Ownership! Have I consulted with my team to get their input on my own performance?
- Planning! Have you determined the best path to achieving the required result? Engage your team and solicit their ideas. Build the plan together.
- Build Talent! Are you resourcing the right talent? Have you determined their ability to accept this responsibility? Has their previous performance been reliable?
- Tools! Does your team have the information, systems and infrastructure that will allow them to work with ease?
- Communication! Are you having effective conversations and as many as required? Email and internal communication forums are good tools, but the face to face conversations are where you confirm expectations and get acceptance of the team’s understanding, aka their “promise” to complete the work.
- Teamwork! Strong teams are accountable to each other! Develop a “scorecard” so they all know, at any time, the status of the work. Openly discuss as a team who is responsible for which contribution and find ways for team members to support each other.
Once you have considered these questions and potential actions, you will be better equipped to ensure you are able to deliver on what you are accountable for. Making the necessary shifts in your own behavior will demonstrate to your team and your organization that you take your own accountability seriously.
Even though the reflection points and actions may seem reasonable, I have had some of my clients acknowledge this and then ask me how, literally, they could have these conversations or adopt new practices. I can help! Please reach out to me and we will have a conversation to help you clarify your “how”.