This summer, our family is planning a trip to Portland, Oregon for our annual family vacation. This time, it’s not just my immediate family attending, but some extended family members as well – 11 in total. Normally, I take charge of planning events like this because not only do I enjoy it, I am good at planning things (and completing them) in advance. We found an awesome house that all of us will stay in, and this past week, I have been trying to get everyone to book their airline tickets.
If you take any sample group of people (family members, staff members, etc.), there will be folks who are ahead of schedule, some right on time, and others that will lag. As someone who is typically ahead of schedule, the procrastinators can drive me crazy. On Wednesday, I spent an entire day fretting over the family members that were in no hurry to book their airline tickets. Wanting to make sure they got a good deal and didn’t miss out on the trip because it was cost prohibitive, I found myself taking responsibility for what clearly did not belong to me.
As managers, leaders, and business owners, I know without a doubt that many of us struggle with the issues of accountability and responsibility. Recently, one of my clients completed a yearlong coach training program for supervisors at a nationwide call center. After reviewing the survey results from these supervisors, the number one takeaway they received from the training was the need to hold their associates accountable. These leaders realized they were in a bad habit of solving problems for their staff members instead of empowering them to take responsibility for their own professional development.
Why is it so challenging to navigate the waters of accountability and responsibility? There are a number of factors that continue to drive our leaders today, and keep them from growing in this area:
- A Need to Control and Do Things Their Way
- A Lack of Trust in their Staff Members
- A Fear of Failure
- A Lack of Communication Between Leader and Staff Member
- A Tendency to Be Pulled in Too Many Directions
- A Genuine Disinterest in Staff Development
- A Lack of Time to Devote to Employee Development
- A Shortage of Talented Staff Members
However, for any organization to run efficiently and effectively (including families), we need to resolve the challenges of accountability and responsibility. Here are some ideas I have practiced with not only myself but with many of my small business owners and leaders.
- Admit that you are BETTER with a top performing team. A high performing team not only helps your business grow, it helps you focus on what you do best.
- Understand that different people operate in different ways, and what’s most important is the result. Are you getting the result you want? If so, empower your team members to do things their way. If not, guide them and coach them to do things differently to achieve the results you want.
- Let people fail. Failure is just an opportunity to learn. However, don’t forget the follow up to mistakes. There needs to be a conversation as to what happened, why, and how it can be fixed for the future. It might be hard to watch someone fall down, but if they learn to walk better, then that is significant progress.
- Create and communicate clear procedures and expectations to staff members. If there is any amount of ambiguity or lack of communication, you are leaving potholes for your staff to trip over. They will disappoint you, but it won’t be their fault. Document all your procedures and expectations, and make sure your staff members have a copy. Remind them continually when they fall off track.
- Build an extremely tight follow-up system. It would be nice if we could give an assignment to someone, exit stage left, and expect that it will be completed. That might happen with your star employees, but with new and developing staff members, they will need more follow up to hold them accountable. How tight your follow-up system is will be directly correlated to their success, and yours.
- Empower your staff members to set goals and take an active role in their development. Most engaged employees want to feel a part of the team, and they feel good when they are actively growing and contributing to the organization. Celebrate and encourage proactivity and initiative. You will get more of it when you focus your energy on their successes.
- Hire slowly and fire quickly. Having the right talent in place to foster an environment of accountability and responsibility is critical. Take your time when searching for new staff members so you don’t make hiring mistakes. Don’t drag out the process of replacing someone who is not engaged and developing. People don’t have to be perfect, but they need to show initiative and a commitment to their jobs.
- Make sure people are in the right roles. Your team will be at its best when each member is doing a job that plays to their strengths. Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole never works out well. Your staff member will be frustrated and ultimately disengaged. And it’s impossible to hold a disengaged employee accountable.
- Carve out time for staff development. Training is crucial to success. Even if a staff member knows their job inside and out, there are always other skills to learn. Invest in leadership skills, emotional intelligence training, and any other soft skills or technical training that could be beneficial to their job.
- Do your own work as a leader. Are you holding yourself accountable? Are you taking self-responsibility? Are you practicing letting go of control? Are you doing all of these other suggested ideas? If not, work on you. Show your staff members you too are developing, and they will likely follow and help you reach your goals.
As a leader of my own business, my family and a significant contributor to many other small businesses, I am constantly navigating the blurry lines of accountability and responsibility. I am a work in progress. And so is everyone else I live and work with. The more we all work on our own obstacles to success, the more we help others stay in their lane and own accountability and responsibility for what belongs to them.
10 Ways to Navigate the Challenges of Accountability and Responsibility
March 9, 2018