Managers Are Accountable, Too

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. It’s likely that Sarah 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 his 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.

Blame-oriented cultures are different. Employees practically expect to be blamed when something goes wrong, even if they’re not responsible for what went wrong. They get reprimanded with their managers grumble about accountability in the background. But I would bet that in most cases, the managers are not doing their job managing. They need to be keenly aware of what’s going on and make sure they are communicating appropriately.

The skill of being accountable for others is essential to being a good manager. I saw a positive example of this in action at a bank. A teller was helping me with a transaction and while he was taking care of my request, I observed his manager walking behind each of the tellers, unobtrusively looking at what they were doing, in effect spot checking their work. She was completely focused on her people.

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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