Making Goals and Accountabilities Clear to Your Team Is Leadership Job #1
During the Second World War, one of England’s basic defensive measures included the removal and switching of signposts, milestones, and railway station signs to confuse the enemy. Unfortunately, too many people managers unknowingly confuse their teams because they do not make goals and accountabilities clear enough to their team.
What Happens When Goals and Accountabilities Are Unclear?
When goals and accountabilities are unclear, it makes it difficult for employees to feel valued — a key to higher levels of employee engagement. Ambiguity makes it challenging for employees to feel confident about what matters most, to know how they are doing, and to understand when to seek help. Unclear goals and accountabilities directly lead to uncertain, ineffective, or misaligned:
Setting Effective Goals
We know from people manager assessment data, effective goals provide clarity, focus, motivation, and accountability. Goals that are too difficult create employee disengagement; goals that are too easy do not motivate maximum effort or higher levels of performance. To set effective goals at work, make sure that goals are not only SMART, but also have the following high performance characteristics:
Creating a Culture of High Accountability
What is accountability at work? Organizational accountability is about consistently delivering on a commitment — in other words it is about taking responsibility for achieving goals and outcomes and it should be a value modeled at all levels of an organization. From our perspective, accountability at work depends on five best practices:
We define competence as “the demonstration of sequenced, coordinated actions that accomplishes a particular desired outcome.” We believe that competence is goal or task specific and is contingent upon the requirements of a particular outcome. To set your team up for success, make sure that everyone has the right level of goal- and task-specific knowledge and skills to get the job done in a way that makes sense.
We believe that commitment is attitudinal; it is the “want to do” frame of mind that helps someone persevere in the face of missteps or failure in terms of motivation and self-confidence.
The motivation perspective asserts that a person’s energy comes from what they expect to gain as a result of achieving a specific goal. We define motivation at work as “the desire to overcome obstacles, exercise power, and strive to do something difficult to the highest level possible.” It is your job as a leader to create an environment that increases a person’s willingness to put forth effort in pursuit of desired outcomes.
The self-confidence perspective suggests that people monitor and self-evaluate their own performance based on desired outcomes. When there is a large discrepancy between the desired outcome and person’s performance, it causes discouragement, negativity, and a loss of faith in their ability to succeed. This loss of confidence often results in lower attention and effort.
Your role as a leader is to (1) help your team members understand that self-judgment is normal, and needed, to develop skills and self-reliance and (2) Give your team members constructive feedback on performance in a way that helps to increase their self-confidence for a particular outcome.
You and your team should always know where they are headed, how things are going, and what they need to be set up for success.
An Added Wrinkle
Cross-functional teams and matrixed environments can make it more difficult to create clear and agreed upon goals and accountabilities. In some dispersed and overlapping environments, employees are able to hide failures by blaming others, citing circumstances beyond their control, shifting roles, or playing politics.
To counteract these challenges, managers need to make an all-out effort to identify and counteract any goal or role ambiguity across teams. Make sure that you clearly establish the individual who will be ultimately responsible for each goal, and name project sponsors who will oversee the goal from beginning to end.
The Bottom Line
Accountability is an essential for high performance and employee engagement. Can you honestly say that your goals and accountabilities are understood, believable, and implementable enough?
To learn more about how to make goals and accountabilities clear to your team, download 7 Immediate Management Actions to Create Alignment with Goals
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