Five Ways Effective Managers Hold Teams Accountable

Office Meeting

An effective manager is NOT an employee’s best friend. He does NOT take over just because he can do it better.  He does NOT assume his employees can read his mind. An effective manager does NOT use fear tactics to motivate.

Yet at some point in many managers’ careers, they rely on one of these common pitfalls to hold their teams accountable, especially when a team is underperforming.

What works best to effectively motivate teams to meet and go beyond expectations?

#1 Managers: Communicate Specific Expectations to Teams 

If real estate is about location, managing is about communication.  A team cannot be held accountable to something if they don’t understand the expectation. “Accountability is about delivering on a commitment,” says behavioral change expert Peter Bregman “It’s a responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks.  It’s taking initiative with thoughtful, strategic follow-through.”

Let’s break down Bregman’s definition: if a team is “delivering on a commitment,” they need to 1) understand the commitment (desired outcome) and 2) buy into the task to be motivated to take initiative.

Effective managers communicate the desired outcome of a project in specific terms. “It is important for a manager to go over in detail the expectations they have and how it plays into the larger goals of an organization,” says Devin Mercier of Pathlight.  “For example, it’s not enough for a manager to tell her team that they need to increase their social media presence.  A manager that holds her employees accountable will say ‘we need to increase our page views by 10,000 this month.’”  Managers will then provide ways to check in on progress and keep everyone on track.

#2 Managers: Balance Positive and Negative Feedback 

Effective managers give specific praise when they see desired outcomes and effort.  This fosters intrinsic motivation.  When giving criticism, managers should know their employees well enough to best deliver suggestions. Balance anything negative with a positive. “The key to effective constructive criticism is balancing the positive feedback with the negative feedback. If all feedback is negative, team members may be insulted, angry or disengaged. By combining both, you show team members that they did some aspects well and they’re given a learning opportunity to do better in the future,” says Forbes Council Member Nick Leighton.

#3 Managers: Know that Accountability is a Relationship Built on Respect 

Managers who ask their employees to work above and beyond without demonstrating a work ethic of their own quickly lose the respect of their employees.  Similarly, managers who do not express personal buy-in to the mission/ purpose of a project will also lose the respect of a team.  Managers should talk about the purpose of a project respectfully to earn employee buy-in.  Make it a two-way conversation: “These expectations should be reached through discussion and mutual agreement between you and your employee. They definitely don’t need to be defined exclusively by you and you alone; making sure they are the product of a conversation builds buy-in from the outset,” says Mercier.

#4 Managers: Accountability Means a Focus on Outcomes

Effective managers focus on outcomes; they understand how to have a positive working relationship with an employee while keeping the work itself impersonal.  A manager who is too worried about how he or she is perceived by an employee shows the employee that work produced is secondary to the personal relationship.  Focusing on the outcomes of the work itself better holds teams accountable.

A focus on outcomes will also lessen the tendency for employees to feel insecure or fearful since an outcome is more quantifiable. 

#5 Managers: Accountability Means Letting Go 

Holding employees accountable requires a level of trust. A well-trained, smart employee will thrive with clear expectations and freedom. “Empowered team members are given latitude to work as part of a team or independently, as long as the goals are common, says Leighton. “Teams celebrate successes as a collective win and share in mistakes.”

Effective managers can manage without micromanaging.  This means giving employees the freedom to make mistakes: “Accountability isn’t blaming team members for their mistakes or punishment, however. Accountable team members take responsibility for their actions, success or failure and the consequences in order to improve (Leighton).

Some employees need nothing more than manager’s acknowledgement to improve outcomes.  This recognition can go a long way in creating a happy environment.  Managers should be as specific as possible with growth feedback. Praise can go a long way. It’s highly motivating.  Some employees wait all day for managers to respond to and praise their work.  Praise, given in the right way, can result in more effort and better quality work.

At Artemis Consultants, we know that the manager/ employee relationship is crucial to success. Please visit our website for more career and hiring insights.

-Written exclusively for Artemis Consultants by Content Writer Mellody Melville

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