How to lift accountability without losing connection

Professional Talking

Implementing a Requisite approach has the benefits of clarity of expectations and authority to get work done which in turn liberates people’s natural desire to be useful.  This is generated from the concept that it’s the managerial role that is accountable for the results and behaviour of their directs (regardless of who they may do a particular bit of work ‘for’).  This accountability naturally requires the managerial role to ensure clarity and authority are in place.

So far so good.

But…there is an unwanted side effect we need to avoid – the relationship disconnect.  It’s easy to accidentally adopt an approach of ‘that’s their job to do it, and if they can’t, that’s their problem’.  You might think that you would never take an approach like this, but I’ve seen it happen in well-meaning circumstances in a genuine attempt to provide freedom and autonomy.

The missing (and balancing) element is another Requisite fundamental – the managerial role exists to add value to the work of their directs.    How is this value added?  It occurs at the start through the clarity and authority mentioned above.  This is just the start. Once the work is underway, it occursthrough regular checking in and asking of questions to assist the direct in learning and making decisions as they go about their work.

The key is that you don’t pick up the shovel and start digging with them (unless it’s an emergency in which case it’s all hands to the pump).  What you do is you help them with their own thinking.  Questions like:

  • Is the outcome you’re shooting for clear?
  • What are three ways you could approach this?
  • If you play it through to the end, what happens?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and make something happen, what would that be?  Now how could you get that to happen?
  • What do you think is at the bottom of the issues here?

You see the pattern.  They are all questions.  It’s like therapy but for decision-making rather than the psyche.  It’s not even teaching them to fish, it’s asking questions so they can work out how to fish themselves, with the fishing being decision-making.

And of course, if there’s an issue in clarity of the task, or the resources/authority provided…then that’s up to you to resolve.   Same if they appear to be getting off track (missing in terms of quantity, quality, resources or time)…you add value by pointing this out and asking for the plan to rectify.

When do you do this?

One-on-ones are a good spot if they raise particular tasks or issues themselves.  If they don’t raise them, you can use your part of the one-on-ones at the end if there’s time.  Otherwise, it’s up to you as the manager to drop past or schedule a meeting to make sure you check in.  Don’t rely on people bringing their issues to you – only a certain percentage of people do this.  You need to go to some people yourself.   That’s why we build relationships with our people through one-on-ones and the team meeting – so you’ll know which ones you need to drop past.  (It’s called building the Mutual Knowledge Unit if you’re into technical terms).

By regular check-ins combined with the weekly one-on-ones and the weekly team meeting and also feedback…you  and your managers can both provide clarity and authority and continue or build strong trusting work relationships.  The connection can be maintained.

And remember…if this is  quite a change in the role relationships for some (if they were previously more like colleagues than manager-direct), then the Manager-once-Removed can sit down in a three-person discussion about the differences in the roles and how they work.   First Rule of Change: Don’t change things without telling people that you’re changing things.

Clarity of accountability is just the start.  Once the yachts have crossed the start line, the real sailing begins.  Time to check in with your directs.

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