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Accountability Starts With Clear Expectations

(February 21, 2023 Newsletter)

If I had to rank the top 5 barriers to accountability, I’d order them as follows (in descending order to #1 biggest barrier)

5. Difficulty estimating timeframes

4. Irregular supervision cadence

3. Discomfort with hard conversations

2. Unclear roles and responsibilities

1. Lack of clarity around outcomes and goals

Any attempts to “hold people accountable” that don’t involve setting and communicating clear expectations will inevitably fail.

Why are unclear expectations so dangerous to accountability? Because if the end state is unclear, there is no accurate way of measuring if it’s been achieved.

Last week, a client gave the following status update: his deputies are proactive, report back regularly how things are going (including sharing their concerns alongside celebrating wins), and they’re on track to hit their numbers. The key: everyone agrees on “the numbers” – each KPI for the coming quarter - and who is responsible for each.

But you may say, ok that’s a tech company… what about for nonprofits?

Here’s a second example from a client who works at a large, legacy, global nonprofit. During her coaching program she worked on a variety of management-related goals – and among them? Figuring out how to display her department’s 2023 goals and present them at a team meeting. Only then could she improve their system for tracking progress, which included asking consistent questions at their 1:1 and team meetings, which led to getting information earlier from her team.

It's mid-February, which is absolutely not too late to pause and align your team’s 2023 goals. If they’re unclear, reach out – I’ll be happy to chat about how you can gain clarity or communicate them clearly to your organization, department, or team.

And stay tuned for more emails on this topic… I’ll dive into the other barriers. In the meantime, I invite your thoughts on them.

Check out my one-minute latest video on LinkedIn about breaking a “Culture of Accountability” into manageable steps.


What I’m reading and listening to this week:

Managers Have Major Impact On Mental Health: How To Lead For Wellbeing by Tracy Brower. She cites a recent survey, “According to 69% of people, their managers had the greatest impact on their mental health, on par with the impact of their partner.” Read the article for more.

One podcast episode I heard on Adam Grant’s “Rethinking”: How to have good arguments with world debate champion Bo Seo. I’m gathering my thoughts on this episode, so stay tuned…


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