Dr. Agnes Furst is the author of this blog and a facilitator at The 2019 LIVE Instructor-led Supervisory Academy. This blog supports her workshop titled “Accountability: Creating Moments of Truth.”


It all looks so promising at first…

Your team starts working on a new project. You see the goal very clearly; it is ambitious but achievable. All the key players are well-trained and generally motivated. The first meeting goes well, team members are excited! And then…

At first, it may be just a few subtle signs – confusion, miscommunication, minor delays, but then the small problems escalate.  After a few weeks, it becomes very clear that the original project has gone astray and there is no way you can meet the final deadline. On top of all the small fires you have to put out along the way, you will also need to listen to and console team members as they are expressing their frustration with each other and with the project. What went so terribly wrong and how come you didn’t see this happening?

When a group of people need to rely on each other during performing tasks, some leaders tend to assume that everyone sees the big picture as well as they do. We also assume that each of the team members understand their role in the process and take their responsibility seriously. In reality, even within a highly motivated team, individual priorities may differ widely. Assumptions will cause misunderstandings; misunderstandings cause delays, conflict and decreased work performance. The result is often frustration and missed deadlines, abandoned projects, etc. Success has many owners who will gladly take credit; failure is usually an orphan. In addition, the blame game and finger-pointing that generally happens after a failed project will leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

One of the things that can help you run your projects more efficiently is “ownership”. This means everyone feels responsible for their role and tasks within the team and they hold themselves accountable for their deadlines and results. They don’t need to oversee the whole project; they just need to understand what is expected of them and what the potential bad outcomes are if they mess it up. They also need to feel that if something goes wrong, they should take the initiative to fix it, instead of waiting for some “divine intervention”.

The other thing that may be necessary is for team members to be empowered in their job. Empowerment is the opposite of micro-management; empowered employees will sometimes make the impossible possible. There are great success stories about what happens when an employee is empowered to make some decisions and overcome obstacles that would have meant a complete roadblock for a non-empowered employee.

Ownership, together with empowerment, will create a culture of accountability. Real accountability comes from within; you cannot impose it on others. It means that you take full responsibility for your actions, whatever the result may be. It also means that you are willing to do what it takes, to achieve the best possible result and, if necessary, fix any mistakes on the go.

Accountability, when it exists at every level in your organization, is a beautiful thing. It is the characteristic of a healthy organization. When we hold ourselves accountable, we make a profound statement: we see our role and tasks clearly and even though we are not perfect, we pledge to do our absolute best and make corrections if necessary, even if this means admitting that we had been wrong about something. This is not easy sometimes but believe me – it is possible. A leader’s job is to encourage and support accountability throughout the organization.

If you want to learn more about this topic, register here for the 2019 LIVE Instructor-led Supervisory Academy and register for “Accountability: Creating Moments of Truth”.