High performing teams hold one another accountable, and this is emphasized as one of the key tenets of teamwork in Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
However – this is easier said than done.
A lot of bosses are conflict avoidant, and so they do not follow-up. As an outcome of this, high performers often end up leaving the organization. They want to part of a winning team and they know that accountability is required for this.
How can you be a leader that holds the team accountable – without being a jerk while you do it?
1. Teach teamwork principles to your team (using the Lencioni book is one way) and stress the importance of accountability as part of your culture.
2. Make sure that assignments are clear to everyone. It is a good idea to have someone send out notes after a team meeting that lists what each person agreed to do and by when.
3. Follow-up soon once someone misses a deadline. You may need to do this more quickly if it is an urgent issue. A simple communication can work: “Hi Rob, it was my understanding that you were going to have done X by yesterday. Please update me. Thanks.”
What about chronic accountability issues?
1. Schedule a meeting. Once you identify accountability as an ongoing issue, jump on this quickly. Don’t let it lag and do not be conflict avoidant.
2. Identify the underlying issue. Take an exploratory versus accusatory mindset into the meeting.* “Rob, I have noticed that you have missed a number of deadlines in the past couple of months. I want to support you and set you up for success. What’s going on?” Maybe there are some personal issues you did not know about. Or maybe they over-promise and need to scale that back. Or maybe they need some training. Figure it out and make a specific agreed upon plan.
3. Monitor and set a follow-up meeting. Give it a few weeks and make sure that the plan is being followed. Continue to monitor and follow-up as needed. Make sure to provide appropriate positive feedback when they meet their deadlines.
Don’t complain about people not meeting deadlines. Its your job to hold them accountable. And when you do, you will drive better results and continue to build the morale of your winning team.
*Raffoni, M. “Does Your Team Have an Accountability Problem,” Harvard Business Review online, February 10, 2020.