Many managers struggle to hold their direct reports accountable – perhaps it’s avoidance of discomfort, fear of conflict, or just not understanding the importance of keeping people accountable to their role and behaviour.

Some leaders believe in a cheer leading type of leadership which is a great strength to have. However if not counterbalanced by accountability you can end up with team dynamics of entitlement, lost time and conflict. A certain percentage of your team members will hold themselves accountable. They may become resentful of others who don’t. They may view the laissez-faire management style is inadequate at best.

In executive coaching, I assist my client whether a President, CEO or manager, to find the healthy balance between cheering and accountability. The word is made up of two words “Account” and “Ability” – meaning simply to hold people accountable to their abilities. That is, to ensure that your team members are working up to the level of their capabilities.

When individuals and teams are working below their level of competence and skills, they know it at some level. In this behavior pattern, the individual will be feeling guilty that they are not performing. They don’t experience that wonderful sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Eventually, this pattern of behavior will create negativity – either in the individual or in the team dynamics.

By holding the individual accountable, it gives them the opportunity to realize their potential. So feedback needs to be balanced with both positive and growth inspiring information. If your direct report is under functioning, then be honest, be specific and tell them so. Many individuals will wonder how they are perceived, and lack of direct feedback can result in employees feeling unsure and unnecessarily questioning themselves. Most employees would much prefer to have areas of growth identified so that they know they are on the right track.

Employees who are chronically below standard in their work habits may require some support for personal challenges, or they may be in the wrong position, or their job simply isn’t a good match for their skill set. Working in a position that is a mismatch is stress inducing doesn’t benefit the employee, the team or the workplace. Having honest conversations is the only route to address this issue. By exploring what’s happening you can make plans to assist the employee to find more rewarding work even if it’s not in your department.

Help your team dynamics and individual team members by stretching yourself to offer direct honest feedback of what is going well, what needs to improve. This will build your team’s trust and will help people address areas of growth they may not have been aware of. This will help each individual to reach their potential.

Sylvia Plester-Silk is an Executive Coach, author, and Team Facilitator at On Purpose Consulting. Sylvia helps Executives to better understand and navigate team dynamics. She has assisted clients throughout Ontario including Kitchener, Hamilton, Mississauga, Halton Region, Toronto and Guelph.

1 Comment

  1. Well-written! Great information to act on.

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