Accountability happens when there is clarity and follow up, from both the employee and the supervisor. Accountability is, in many ways, the cornerstone of supervision. It is all about helping your staff do what they need to do and therefore carrying their fair share of the work.
For too many supervisors, accountability is about micromanagement. These supervisors think the only way to ensure something is done, is to do oversee every single step of the process. When they are this involved, the work will be done but you will also have very unhappy employees.
Here are five steps to accountability.
Be absolutely clear what is expected. Paint a picture of what success looks like. Whether you’re talking about an entire job, a responsibility, a project or a one-time assignment, take time to explain what is needed. Make sure your staff person understands. Ask them if they have any questions. Check to ensure you are talking about the same things. Specify any relevant time factors. Be clear how they need to do the task as well as what they need to do.
Set up clear bench marks. Especially for a big project, accountability happens in steps not at the final deadline. Back up from the completed project and plan completion days to be on target for the final deadline. These interim check points can help the staff person manage their work and it can assure that things are moving forward.
Pay attention to the benchmarks. Notice and follow up to make sure they are met. Don’t just blow it off or accept a vague rationale or a promise that things are fine. The benchmarks are there to keep the process moving forward. If a benchmark is missed, make a clear agreement (with time checks) of when and how the benchmark will be met. And then, follow up on those agreements.
At the next interim step, ask clearly: Did you complete the task? This is a yes or no question. If yes, acknowledge their success and, if they are in learning mode, discuss what they learned. If the answer is no, ask what happened. And then talk about how many of the things that got in their way were under their control. Help your staff learn how to control their time and their priorities by holding them to them. Talk it through.
When the project is completed, mark the occasion. Celebrate and debrief. Help your staff think through the entire process by asking thoughtful questions. What contributed to success or failure? Any thoughts of how it could go better next time? How does this accomplishment (or lack thereof) impact of this work on the organization’s mission? What do they think is most important for their work going forward? If they need time to think about their answers, meet again soon to hear what they’re thinking.
All of this helps your staff be accountable to current commitments while also helping them learn how to prioritize and hold themselves accountable. It’s a win-win!