I've been coaching and working with Senior Leaders across many industries lately, and keep hearing the same concern when we talk about delivering on the strategies they have worked so hard to develop and communicate across their organizations. Lack of accountability is hurting our ability to execute.
If you've noticed this creeping into your team or organization, it may require some focused attention before it's too late. Let's review six techniques that can help stem the tide and turn your team into an executing machine!
- Get crystal clear about priorities - It's not unusual to find the slip in accountability is more a function of confusion and overwhelm than anyone being lazy or just ignoring deadlines. Leaders can help their teams by identifying the top team priorities and confirming individual alignment. One team I worked with last week, has everyone submit top 5 priorities for the following week on Friday. This gives leaders a chance to check for alignment.
- Model it with both your walk and your talk - it's hard to ask for accountability from your team when your just as guilty. I've been on the wrong end of history at times with this behavior and have come to realize this is one of the moments to get vulnerable and ask for help. I had to admit that I needed an accountability partner for the work that challenges me the most. I'm about as self-motivated as they come, but mostly for the work I like. Asking people on my team to keep me honest with certain things, allows me more success with deadlines and keeps me walking my talk.
- Get concrete - WWW's - Who's doing what by when? It's amazing how often people miss the opportunity to bring clarity with this simple technique. Never leave a meeting (big or small) without hitting the WWW. Try to make sure that everyone knows who owns each action to be taken. It doesn’t mean they have to do it alone, but it does create a stronger sense of accountability.
- Consider the ABC's - Leaders need to consider antecedents and consequences when the roll out new process, policies, projects, initiatives and goals. How do we help trigger the right behavior and what are the positive consequences of follow-through and on-time execution? Let this be a collaborative discussion wherever possible. Teams know what motivate them the most, and can create more successful antecedents and consequences on the front end.
- Coach for it - Building stronger competencies for accountability in your team can be the most impactful thing you can do for you for organizational results. I've created a 3 minute video to review on this topic since it's a little more than we can cover here. Suffice it to say, you get what you focus on. If they lack the skill or motivation for accountability, coaching is the right tool from your toolkit.
- Recognize and reinforce it - More cowbell! Ok more feedback might be a more appropriate cry here. How will they know they nailed it if you don't catch them doing it well and point it out? Every time someone asks for more clarity of concrete timelines, thank them for being willing to do so. When your direct reports stop and verify the order of priorities with you, consider that a huge win. It will likely ensure we're getting the right things done and "back-burnering" the less important work.
There may be nothing more frustrating for your team than having the same projects hanging around on their list every year, because we miss the mark and don’t execute the plan. Let this year be the year you and your team crush the execution thing!