Managers often ask how to hold their employees accountable. This is a difficult question to answer, because one of the biggest variables is your organizational culture. Some cultures support their people when it comes to accountability issues, while others cast blame.
If your culture is focused on learning and growth, you tend to tie accountability with learning and professional development. For example, if Sarah misses an important deadline, the manager will discuss what happened to create that result. Sarah may have had a good reason but didn’t communicate it ahead of time.
In these types of companies, managers will use the miss as a teaching moment. By unpacking the sequence of events, the employee receives a better grasp of the consequences and adapts her behavior in the next deadline.
Importantly, it is up to the manager to keep an eye on Sarah the next time around, to make sure that she is successful in meeting the deadline. Through observation, the manager will be able to see where disconnects occur.
Managers may complain that this takes too much time to oversee their employees like this. Yes it does take time, and it’s an essential part of their job.
Blame-oriented cultures are different. Employees practically expect to be blamed when something goes wrong, even if they weren’t responsible. They get reprimanded while their managers grumble about accountability in the background.
In most of these cases, the managers are probably not doing their job managing. They throw in the towel because they know that blame is headed in their direction anyway, so why bother.
In spite of this cynical point of view, these managers still need to be keenly aware of what’s going on and make sure that accountability is being addressed appropriately.
Management isn’t easy! Like it or not, the skill of being accountable for others is essential to be a good manager. It requires a lot of nuance to make sure that you’re supervising without being obtrusive or questioning without micromanaging.
The next time you get frustrated with someone who works with you, stop and consider your role in the situation. Make sure you did your job first.
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