Deborah Mackin

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How to building accountable, responsible employees in the workplace. (Part 1 of 2)

Growing Responsibility and Accountability in the Workplace: Part 1 of 2

What makes one employee look forward to taking on more responsibility and accountability while another one blames to avoid any responsibility? Is it all based solely on the employee, or does management play a role in creating an environment that fosters accountability and responsibility? Let's explore three strategies for building accountability and responsibility in the environment utilizing three tools: the RACI Chart; the Situational Leadership Model; and Performance Management. When combined, these three tools provide an effective roadmap for improving accountability.

Tool 1: How to Hold People Responsible and Accountable Using the RACI Chart
The RACI chart is designed to help people define who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed for the various tasks or decisions required either by individuals or teams. By completing the RACI, the manager or project leader clarifies what is expected and by whom.

The person or position required to complete a task. Each task is required to have a responsible person or position assigned to it. Multiple people or positions can be assigned responsibility for completing a task.

The person or position accountable for a task is responsible for insuring that it is completed on-time and in a manner which meets all expectations for it. The Accountable (A) person or position does not have to physically do the task. Accountability should be focused on the "Responsible" person whenever possible. Accountability must be assigned to each task.

The person or position assigned consulting status for a task is required to be consulted with by the Responsible (R) person or party before performing a task. A task with a consulting position assigned to it must be consulted with before the task is performed. Because of the delay caused by consultations, their use should be minimized. The responsible party should be empowered to do the required task with very few exceptions.

The person or position assigned informed status for a task is required to be informed that a task has been completed. The person or position with the "I" can be informed before or after the fact. The Informed (I) person or position is not being informed for permission or approval.

The RACI chart should initially be completed by the manager or sponsor of a team and then shared with employees or team members. The RACI is a living document that changes over time as people become more and more accountable for their results. In a team environment, the RACI is typically reviewed at the same time the team charter is being updated with new goals.

Tool 2: Using Situational Leadership to Build Environments of Accountability
In the 1980s as organizations moved away from the Taylor model of accountability (resting solely with management), it became popular for managers to "empower" employees to build accountability. Often uncertain what the term really meant or how to make it happen, management's implementation of empowerment often looked more like a "dump and run." It's only when we apply the Situational Leadership Model (Blanchard) that we begin to understand how and, more importantly, when to empower and build accountability over the long-term.

The Situational Leadership Model suggests that employees develop over a long period of time by building on two components: the competence (skill and ability) and the commitment (desire and motivation) to do the task. According to Blanchard, employees typically fall into one of these four categories:

D1: Low competence high commitment
Often a new employee (or an experienced employee) who is given a new task. Employee has high expectations for what will happen; very enthusiastic about the future and own ability to deliver results. Often eager to please, readily volunteers and tries to do extra in order to be accepted.

D2: Some competence low commitment
Characterized as a "sophomore" employee who has taken a nose-dive in motivation because job expectations don't match reality; the work is more difficult than expected, and not as "flashy" as desired. This employee watches the clock, acts like a know-it-all and is critical of authority.

D3: High competence variable commitment
A long-term employee who has become cynical, bitter and frustrated over time. Although competent, the employee often displays negativity and procrastination. The D3 has experienced many disappointments in the work environment and has "collected stamps" about those disappointments over time.

D4: High competence high commitment
A star employee who brings experience and commitment to the job. They are able to set goals and deliver results. The D4 is very self-motivated and self-directed.

Having examined the four developmental categories, it's easy to see that it doesn't make sense to lead, manage, supervise or coach these four types of employees in the same way. Each developmental level needs a different leadership approach to encourage responsibility and accountability. If we empower the D1, the employee will get completely lost, without a clue about what work to do or how to do it. If we direct the D4, we will be micromanaging a competent employee and, as a result, completely discourage any creativity or initiative.

Instead, Situational Leadership suggests that there are four corresponding styles of leadership that must occur to drive accountability and responsibility. Leadership is based on the degrees of Directive behavior (telling and showing people what to do and providing frequent feedback) and the degree of Supportive behavior (praising, listening, encouraging and involving); the S1-S4 corresponds to the D1-D4:

S1: TEACHING (high directive; high supportive)
The manager provides clear direction about tasks, expectations, responsibilities and simultaneously builds a strong relationship with the employee. The manager's approach is quite directive, or what is called the "teaching" style.

S2: COACHING (high directive; low supportive)
The manager continues to strongly direct and teaches with input from the employee, but also "coaches" proper behavior and job expectations. The manager must correct problem behaviors using "redirection" strategies. It's also important for the manager to speak to the employee's potential.

S3: SUPPORTING (low directive: high supportive)
The manager places the focus on rebuilding and restoring the relationship by using a "supportive" model of listening and engaging with the employee. The goal is to get the "stamps" out so the energy can flow again. This employee does not need directive strategies, as they are very component.

S4: EMPOWERING (low directive; low supportive)
This star is ready to be empowered. Challenging goals are identified and the employee is given great latitude to design and develop own approach. The manager only provides guidance when needed.

Click here to read Part 2

Deborah Mackin is founder and president of New Directions Consulting, Inc. and author of teambuilding books, including the 2nd edition of the Team Building Tool Kit (Fall, 2007). As an international consultant and trainer for 20+ years, Deborah is a widely recognized authority on teams, quality service, productivity, and leadership. For more information, visit New Directions Consulting.

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