The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Holding our people accountable is one of the basics of being a leader. They flounder, deadlines pass unheeded, things get missed, work is not completed to a satisfactory standard. Why is that? People are not trying to fail in their jobs, but they do let the team down with their poor performance and lack of accountability. What can we do about it?

As the leader, we must start with ourselves. The most crucial resource we have is time. How we choose to use it is critical. If we are poor time managers, we bring unnecessary stress to our own lives and those of our colleagues. We show up with unreasonable turnaround times for work, because we were not properly organized. We become very stressed, and that spreads like an epidemic throughout the team. Our stress immediately impacts our mood control, and our mood can lighten or darken the workplace within seconds.

We are time-poor because we haven’t done a good enough job of defining our priorities. We are also rushing around because we are doing too much. The reason we are so busy is that we are unable to delegate work properly. We tried it once, there were errors, problems, rework was required, and we decided, “It is faster if I do it myself.” This is false economy, because we can’t do everything alone. We need to gain leverage by accessing the full power of the team. Delegation is also an important driver of career development for our successors. By giving them some of our tasks, we can start to groom them for higher things.

The reason we think delegation doesn’t work is because we have been doing it the wrong way. Done correctly, it can help us use our time for those tasks that only we can perform. One of them is coaching our people. Leaders imagine they are coaching their people, but in reality they are just handing out orders. The accountability of the team is closely linked to the amount of time and energy we invest in coaching them.

We want higher outcomes, which means we either do something new or something old, but in a slightly new way. That means change—and people resist change. They resist it because they don’t want to step outside their comfort zones. If we want them to step up, we have to coach them, delegate to them, and hold them accountable for the results.

When we have time, we are in a strong position to monitor progress and check on milestones. Unpleasant surprises are never greeted well by the organization’s hierarchy, and we don’t want to be the bearer of bad news because one of our team missed a deadline, a quality standard, or compliance with a regulation.
Delegation is not dumping work on people—it is taking the time to explain the Why, the What, and the How. It is having them take charge and having them see this as a stepping stone to bigger things. In this way, the sense of ownership of the task—and therefore accountability—is strong. It means coaching them along the way, through to completion of the task, so that there are only pluses and no minuses.

So, if we want accountability in our team, we start with ourselves. If we have time control, we can better lead and we can better communicate with our team. We are able to walk our talk because we are in control and can deliver what we say we will do. This is how people judge whether we are trustworthy. If we want people to deliver, we have to deliver for them. That means giving them a chance to grow in their careers, supporting them through coaching and being consistent in our mood, behavior, and interactions. We are able to do this because we are not stressed because of poor time control and trying to do too much by ourselves. We need to change. We need to create new, better habits and become better leaders.

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business—but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organizations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do it? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com.

Leaders imagine they are coaching their people, but in reality they are just handing out orders.