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Taking the Mystery Out of Workplace Accountability

Holding people accountable at work is a bit like finding buried treasure—it would be amazing to have, but no one knows how to get there. I’ve provided you with a treasure map, X marks the spot. Let’s begin.

At it’s core, what is accountability?

Accountability is that act of intentionally introducing pain to a person or group, and accountability that works is introducing pain that is more painful than doing the work required. In environments that are very high performing. people love their work. Therefore, accountability sometimes takes the form of merely reducing pleasure drawn from doing the work itself.

How do I do it?

If your goal is driving execution, most accountability should either happen, or be discussed, in weekly meetings with the team. The most basic act of accountability is simply this question: “Last week you agreed to do X, is it done?” This sounds absurdly simple, but as any veteran manager will tell you, that question will suddenly require a team of experts to figure out “what we said about X in the last meeting.” Therefore, good accountability requires this:

  1. Assign specific and measurable tasks
  2. Meet weekly as a team with alarming regularity
  3. Have a written agenda that is sent out prior to the meeting
  4. Have quality notes taken during the meeting, which include assigned task, and distribute the notes immediately after the meeting. (Tip: if you are facilitating the meeting, have someone else handle this part.)
  5. Keep a collective docket of assigned tasks for everyone on the team that shows status of completion
  6. Begin each meeting reviewing the status of the tasks agreed to in the last meeting

Our Management Excellence program has a set of templates that can help you with things such as agendas, notes and dockets.

Because things can go wrong, there are sometimes legitimate reasons someone did not get their tasks finished. Our rule of thumb is this: a renegotiation of the deadline should happen before the meeting, not at the meeting. Simply saying at the next meeting, “I’m not done because such and such happened,” but no one knew until the meeting is the same a blowing off the task and should be treated as such.

Does this seem like a lot? We can help! Check out our Management Excellence program for more on accountability.

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