ByRita Sever

Accountability Steps for You and Your Staff

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.

1. Clarity

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.

2. Benchmarks

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.

3.  Follow Up

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.

4.  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.

5.  Debrief

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!


ByRita Sever

Hiring Successfully: Five Tips

Hiring is one of the most important tasks you have when you’re a manager.  You invest a lot of time and money when you hire a new staff member.  And if you get it wrong, it can cost even more.

So here’s five quick tips to consider when you’re facing that empty desk in your department.

36168168 - laptop on desk with empty chairs in modern office

Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_rido’>rido / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

  1.  Prioritize the hiring process.    Time is tricky to balance when you’re hiring.  You want to give it enough time to know your candidates, including good interviews and reference checking.  At the same time, you want to be flexible and fast so you don’t lose your best candidates to other offers.   The solution is to make hiring one of your top three priorities once you start the process.
  2. Don’t go it alone.  Who will be most impacted by this hire besides you?  Include a representative of those people in the hiring process.  This might include people who will be supervised by this new hire, project partners, fiscal staff or even a client.  You can be clear from the start that you will make the final decision but getting input builds trust and connection.
  3. Include behavioral questions in the interview.  Behavioral questions are the ones that ask for a story from the candidate’s past.  “Tell me about a time . . . .” “Give me an example. . ..”  “Describe a situation. . . “  These questions are five times more effective than straight knowledge questions.  Have the candidate tell you about their past behavior in a concrete, rather than a hypothetical, manner.  Behavioral questions are not easy to answer so don’t make all the questions behavioral.  Pick some key traits and ask the candidate what they’ve done in that area in the past.
  4. Listen carefully.  Obviously, you want to listen to the candidates’ answers.  Hear their experience, their qualifications, their enthusiasm. (Caution:  Don’t confuse introversion for lack of enthusiasm!) Listen also for what you don’t hear.  Ideally, you would have a clear idea of what you’re looking for with each question and if you don’t hear something you’re listening for, consider that.  It may be important or it may not, but notice it.  Listen also to their questions when it is their turn.  Their questions will hopefully show thoughtful attention to the job and the organization.
  5. Hire for alignment.  Alignment is bigger than fit.  It allows more variance and diversity while still ensuring that the candidate is aligned with the mission, the culture and the work of your organization.  Make at least one of your behavioral questions about alignment.

Have fun with the process.  Let the candidate know the kind of manager you are as well as what the job is.  Pay attention to these five tips and you will be more likely to get someone competent to work at that empty desk.


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