Very few people go to work every day to deliberately do a bad job. Yet, at the same time, nearly every manager will tell you that managing people is one of their most difficult responsibilities.
That these two realities can co-exist is a conundrum. So, Change Agents, what are workplaces doing that means that managing well intentioned people ends up causing frustration, anxiety, and apprehension? We don't believe it should be this way, and we think that the way we look at accountability is the problem.
Accountability is actually an implied contract, rather than a physical one. So our employment contracts and job descriptions can only create a tool with which to measure compliance. It is a myth that these create any accountability at all. As managers, we need to focus on the human elements in order to genuinely create accountability.
When we are frustrated, anxious and apprehensive, then we are dealing with emotions. These are emotional responses to a perception that a person you manage is not committed, is not compliant, or is not meeting your expectation. In acknowledging this we can find part of the solution to resolving the conundrum.
THE 3 GREAT BIG RULES OF ACCOUNTABILITY
1. Acknowledge the emotional contract.
You can't, ultimately, hold somebody accountable for something without their permission. This is not about them signing a contract to complete certain tasks, it is about your mutual emotional commitment to mutually understood outcomes, that you both believe are important.
If you merely monitor the compliance to achieving tasks, then you are slowly undermining the emotional contract as the tasks become the focus, rather than the important outcome that the tasks are there to achieve.
Nurturing the ongoing permission to be held accountable means showing that you are mutually committed to the achievement of the important outcome, and having a common understanding of why it matters. If you want people to 'give a damn', then show them why it matters, and show them the importance of their contribution to it!
2. Create autonomy and give clarity.
Autonomy is an important human driver; it is freedom. While workplaces can rarely provide full autonomy, we can remove the micromanagement that usually undermines it. We remove micromanagement when we:
These actions not only provide autonomy, they also create a shared clarity of the desired outcomes. In addition we give clarity through the visibility of the teams within which we work, how those teams fit together, and the contribution of each person in the team.
Clarity also involves having awareness of, and the ability to contribute to, the policies, procedures, and training within the organisation. In far too many workplaces, these are hidden in secure drives, or only referenced when things go wrong. Instead, they should be a description of how things go right! They should be the way things are done around here, codified so that everyone has a common understanding.
Giving clarity is how you overcome the perceived fear, or risk, of giving autonomy. It's a major step to reducing the anxiety and apprehension in managing others.
3. Accept that there will be conflicts in any relationship.
Even with our closest colleagues we will, from time to time, have differing of opinion. Create a safe place to discuss issues and take an explorative approach to resolving the differences. Taking the time to understand the differing points of view is not only constructive, it builds trust and enables a mutual understanding of what performance will look like, given the constraints faced to achieve it.
We created The H Factor system to provide managers with a reliable process for instilling accountability, and to give the people they manage the capacity to demonstrate their contribution to the business outcomes.
H Agents write about the joys and challenges of entrepreneurship and managing people.