The word “accountability” is the latest buzzword going around business. “We don’t have accountability,” executives lament. “We have to hold our people accountable.” Yep, leaders want some of that there accountability…like you can point at it. That you can scoop some up and put it on your cafeteria tray. A person either has it or doesn’t have it.
Accountability isn’t a “thing” to be had, bought, traded or conferred.
It’s a mindset. A quality. A value that one person has for a specific task at hand.
A request was made. The receiver then agreed to that request or negotiated it to a mutually agreeable task with a mutually agreeable timeframe. Notice: the task is well-defined, understood by both parties, and has a specific due date.
NOW you have something to talk about.
If there is a high degree of trust between the two parties, then accountability is assumed. You know that the receiver will deliver on time and within spec. No worries. No lamenting.
- You trust that they understand the task and due dates.
- You trust that they have the ability (skills, knowledge or experience) to accomplish the task.
- You trust that they have the capability (time, resources) to accomplish the task.
- You trust that they are motivated (willing and eager) to accomplish the task.
The issue isn’t about “accountability.” It’s really all about trust. When there is low or no trust, that’s when accountability comes into question and you MUST “close the loop.”
So how do you close the loop?
- Before you finish your initial conversation, confirm that they truly understand the task and due dates. You might even want to throw in a few milestone/check-in dates if you are particularly concerned about making progress.
- Confirm that they have the ability to accomplish the task.
- Training – They have received training to perform the task.
- Experience – They have done this task before.
- Proven Track Record – They have successfully performed the task.
- Confirm that they have the capability (time, resources) to accomplish the task.
- Priority – They know how the task aligns with their current work plan.
- Resources – They have the resources to accomplish the task.
- Fallback – They know what to do when they hit the inevitable roadblock.
- Confirm their level of motivation to accomplish the task.
- Interest – Demonstrate an excitement and interest to accomplish the task.
- Proactivity – They ask probing questions to be clear about expectations.
- Desire – They give you the sense that they want to take care of it!
When you have a great conversation up front about the task, then accountability flows because the two parties trust that the work will get done!
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.