The Accountability Conversation
Week 1 - Are you holding the right person accountable?
Week 2 - Holding the right person accountable
Week 3 - Accountability and the repeat offender
Week 4 - Holding someone accountable for the last time - professional development plans
If we assume that the individual in question did have clear understanding and had demonstrated his/her ability in the past then the dialog goes like this:
1. Open the dialog by stating you’d like to understand why xyz happened and to see the situation from all sides. Gain agreement on talking now, or schedule for very soon.
2. Ask if s/he was aware there was a problem before now?
3. Describe the current status
4. Describe the expectations
5. Describe the impact of the gap
6. Ask to see the situation from her/his perspective
7. LISTEN - listen to learn, not to debate, not to criticize, be curious
Example - using our IT Help Desk situation from last week:
Manager: Joe, I’d like to understand how the new VP received a used laptop and wasn’t asked to sign the IT security policy. Can we talk about this now or do you have something urgent you need to take care of?
Joe: I can talk now, thanks.
Manager: Were you aware this situation was under par?
Joe: Yes, but I didn’t realize it was a big deal.
Manager: Well, Jane, the new VP, showed up for her first executive team meeting with a laptop that was still covered with decals from it’s prior user. When the CEO asked her if she had brought in her personal laptop, she said no, this one had been given to her by IT. I would expect that any new exec would have a new laptop or at least a clean one. This made IT look bad to the entire exec team, and was an unproductive use of an exec team meeting time to discuss. I’d like to know what it looked like from your side.
Joe: I did the best I could. I didn’t know from HR until late yesterday that Jane was starting today and I had used our new stock machine yesterday, because Andrea had her car broken into and needed a new machine to replace her stolen one. She was meeting with investors and both my refurbished machines went to the two new hires that were planned for today. I explained to Jane that we’d have her new machine in her hands no later than noon tomorrow. It has already been shipped. I was embarrassed, but honestly don’t know what I could have done differently.”
Manager: I see your point, Joe. I would have appreciated a heads up so I could field the exec team discussion better. If something like this happens again, will you loop me in first?
Joe: Sure, although I think it unlikely we’ll have this situation again.
Next week we’ll expand this dialog, because it turns out this is not an isolated occasion and Joe routinely is at a loss to know what he could have done better.