In our latest leadership report, we discuss team accountability in one of the first challenges facing leaders today, “I’m Afraid to Demand Too Much of My Team.”
At The Roundtable, we often work with leaders facing a common challenge: team accountability. This issue existed before the pandemic but gained a new dimension during that time. When the pandemic began, many organizations relaxed their expectations, switching to a more empathetic and understanding approach. The “we’re all in this together” mindset led to a grace period, which reduced pressure for immediate results.
Now, nearly four years into the pandemic, this shift towards empathetic leadership has become a lasting, (and largely positive) change in the workplace, especially for those more empathetic leaders. But now many leaders are wondering, “How can we effectively balance getting results and caring about our people?” The best way to describe this balance is this way: compassionate accountability, which is maintaining compassion for your team members, while still holding them accountable to their responsibilities.
If you’re feeling like you’ve swung too far in the empathy direction, maybe you’re taking too much on for your team, and you aren’t sure how to create balance, here are some things to try.
1. Create Team Working Agreements
Team working agreements are also known as a team “ways of working charter.” This charter outlines 3-5 standards that the team comes up with and agrees to. This promotes accountability since the team is creating them, they’re not coming from above like corporate values. During sessions to craft these agreements, it’s crucial to be specific about the actions and even words that will be used for each standard.
For example, “timeliness” can be interpreted in many ways by different people. Here are examples of actions that could define it on your team:
- Meeting project deadlines, providing explanations and revised timelines if deadlines can’t be met.
- Starting and ending meetings on time, consulting the group if extended time is needed and notifying others of lateness.
- Responding to emails within 48 hours or acknowledging receipt and giving an estimated response timeline.
2.) Rebuild Community
I think we can all agree that commuting into the office to be on Teams or Zoom meetings all day with colleagues working from home doesn’t make sense. But there is something different, and dare I say better, about having in-person meetings and interactions. There is a benefit to the spontaneous conversations, overhearing of important information, and community that happens when you’re with your colleagues in the office. Humans crave togetherness, even the most introverted ones! And togetherness has dramatically decreased in the last few years.
This global push to return to the office has employees feeling like a perk is being taken away. So, can you make coming into the office worthwhile? Assuming the whole team is in the same city – can you create work from office days where everyone comes in on the same day to capitalize on the benefits of being together? And to put a cherry on top, can you build in some low-key team building activities too? Like starting meetings with “Two Truths and a Lie” or “This or That” (give 2 options and each person says what they prefer, e.g. coffee or tea). Think of anything the helps people to get to know each other better.
3.) Facilitate a Feedback Conversation and Provide Follow-Through
As a manager, holding members of your team accountable is vital, but taking a coach approach to feedback is usually more effective than a directive approach. Use a structured framework like this one:
- Observe: “Hey, I noticed the deadline was missed yesterday.”
- Invite: “Can we chat about that now?” (Allow space for them to react to your observation and request to chat. They might address it and give you everything you need, but if they don’t move to impact.)
- Impact: “How does this missed deadline impact the project/the team/you etc.?”
- Expectations: “What’s your next step?”
- Follow Up: “When do you want to check in on this again?”
When in doubt, find a way to create a conversation by asking instead of telling.
In our experience as coaches and leaders, we’ve learned the value of self-reflection when faced with challenges. Consider your impact: How are you contributing to the situation? What could you do differently to improve it? What do others need that they aren’t getting?
If you want to chat about tactics further or need any additional help, please reach out. To read about the other 2024 Leadership Trends, download the report and keep your eye out for more blogs on the other trends.