01 Mar You manage a team. Now what?
By Kim Seeling Smith – Ignite-Global.com
You’ve selected a team based on their technical abilities and individual strengths. Somehow this group of people with different talents and ways of working need to be focussed on the same project and in the same direction.
Most importantly, they need to be held accountable for their output and performance.
The former CEO of Verizon Wireless, Denny F. Strigl, says that many new managers struggle because they don’t model or establish accountability and they fail to reinforce its importance.
Having worked with thousands of managers over the last twenty five years and managing my fair share of teams I need to be blunt: most managers don’t have a clue about how to hold their teams accountable – not really.
Many managers think that holding their teams accountable simply means whacking them over the knuckles with a stick when they do something wrong or letting it fester until it’s time for the staff member’s annual performance review. But true accountability actually consists of three parts:
In order to be held accountable, team members need to know – and understand – exactly what is expected of them. You don’t need (in fact shouldn’t) tell them how to do the job. Rather, you need clearly articulate the end result and ensure that they understand their responsibilities towards achieving this. What does it look like? How is it measured? The key is to articulate this soclearly that someone from the outside should be able to easily determine if the result has been delivered or not.
Dan McCarthy, author of ‘The Great Leadership Book’ says that it is vital to gain formal commitment from each team member. “Don’t assume you have someone’s commitment just because you’ve discussed it with them. Watch out for phrases like ‘I’ll try.’ Ask for and listen to people’s concerns. Help them overcome their obstacles, explain the benefits, and help them figure out what they need to achieve the goal. Ask them what needs to happen in order for them to commit to the tasks.”
Once you’ve determined, articulated and reached agreement on the standards, (or job objectives), then you need to hold your team member responsible for achieving them. This requires frequent communication on both sides. Set aside regular time to talk to your team member about their objectives and stick those dates in your diary. The frequency of these meetings is completely dependent on the type of team, nature of deliverables and level of responsibility, but the law of averages suggests that these should be held at a minimum of once per month.
These discussions are typically short, sharp and simple. Are they on track to successfully complete their objectives? If not, why not? Do they need more time, training or expertise? Are they waiting for additional input from other stakeholders? What obstacles have emerged, or are likely to get in their way?
Once you’ve determined what – if anything – is preventing them from succeeding, you can apply the final component of true accountability.
It’s not enough to tell someone what they need to do and then chastise them if they don’t meet those objectives. As a manager or team leader, you must also give your team member the support they need to be successful. This support can take several different forms: guidance or leadership, additional training, removing road blocks put in place by others or sometimes a simple pat on the back to give them greater confidence. The key is to determine what will help them succeed and then to provide that support.
As a manager, there is a coaching opportunity in every interaction with your staff. Exceptional managers are able to delegate accountability to their staff and remain accountable themselves. This accountability must be modelled continually in word, attitude and action. “When a manager is not accountable, commitments slide,” says Strigl. “Decisions don’t get made. Responsibilities are not fulfilled. Worst of all, results are not delivered.” Accountability is the tool that helps teams – and managers – deliver results.
Kim Seeling Smith is the founder and Chief Engagement Officer of Ignite Global, a consultancy whose mission is to deliver the much needed breakthroughs in attracting, engaging and retaining staff in today’s Social Age.
Originally trained as a CPA and Management Consultant with KPMG, Kim subsequently spent 15 years working as a recruiter and studying why some companies are great at staff retention while others constantly battle staff turnover.