A Foundation For Accountability


A frustrating challenge for many leaders is believing they’ve communicated expectations clearly, only to discover later they haven’t been actioned or executed correctly.

It’s equally as frustrating for the team member supposedly receiving those expectations.

Because telling expectations and agreeing expectations are two very different things.

A busy leader may fire off a bunch of instructions, via email or on the run, thinking they’re being clear, expecting the task to be grabbed with both hands.

But it’s a hit and miss approach.

Conflicting priorities, different communication styles, a variety of distractions, confidence levels and mindsets, all affect whether their team member has received the expectations as intended.

Making time to agree expectations can eliminate the costly frustration of incomplete outcomes, messy implementation and a favourite of many leaders…giving up and doing it themselves.

Investing in these kind of high quality conversations has two very powerful outcomes…

  1. It sets people up for success – they know where they’re going, why it’s important, how they’re going to get there and what to do if things don’t go to plan, and

  2. It establishes a clear foundation for the leader to follow up and hold their team member accountable, in a way that’s empowering and strengthens trust.

Skipping the step of agreeing clear expectations, leaves leaders oscillating between hope and blame.

Hope that their team member will deliver to the quality and time frame expected, and blame when they’re late and produce work that’s incomplete or insufficient.  Both reactions taking up valuable mind space that could be put to much better use.

Here’s my simple formula for agreeing expectations…

  1. “This is my expectation….”  Adapt your communication style to theirs.  For example, if your team member is motivated by more detail, take the time to provide detail, if they need time to think and process, give them space…stop talking for a moment.

  2. “This is important because…”  Provide a big picture context, let them know how it impacts other areas of the business.

  3. “When do you think you can you complete it by?”  And negotiate.

  4. “What do you think could get in the way?”  Listen, discuss their concerns and ideas.

  5. “What do you need from me to complete it by…?”  Empower them to own it.

Many leaders and managers admit to either avoiding or attempting to control follow up and accountability conversations with their people.  But when they begin doing the simple, yet game-changing, groundwork of agreeing expectations, they find they are not only empowering their team, they are also empowering themselves.