Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Sunday, August 06, 2017 1:00 am

Leaders must be specific with accountability

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

August already.

Many workplace managers and other leaders probably spent some time in the past four weeks evaluating progress with the year more than half gone.

I spent some time thinking about it, too, while preparing for one leadership meeting in late July. I put together a fairly simple, self-reflective assessment allowing those in attendance to think about the status of goals established earlier in the year. The flip side provided an area to outline potential strategy for whatever remained unaccomplished so far during the remaining months of the year.

A series of five leadership emails in July from Cameron Morrissey on accountability seemed timely. Without accountability, it's tough to reach goals, whether individually or with teams.

Morrissey, a leadership development coach, is author of books including “The 7 Deadly Sins of Leadership and How to Overcome Them in Yourself and Others.” His accountability series stressed the importance of being specific with expectations.

Among the thoughts he shared:

• Great leaders bring out the best in people through pushing as well as pulling them. But many leaders don't get the accountability they should because they aren't comfortable with conflict. Sometimes, Morrissey said, they also fear they will be considered a micromanager.

• Accountability is continuous, not a “one-off discussion.” It also requires dialogue, not statements. But the fewer discussions about performance, the more difficult they are.

• When putting a focus on accountability, leaders should expect it will be tested early on. “Most initiatives in workplaces have short shelf lives,” Morrissey said in one of the emails.

• Consider making a list of employees and note one area where they are exceeding expectations and one area where falling short. Have specific examples of each, which is essential for good feedback and successful accountability conversations.

• Show employees the future. They must clearly understand the consequences before infractions, and managers have to apply them consistently across the board when necessary, Morrissey said.

Being a fairly detailed person, I could relate to the micromanaging concern Morrissey noted. But part of leadership is giving others the opportunity to grow. That means knowing when to take their hands off and trust others. Sometimes, surprising creativity emerges. Good communication from those being entrusted can help smooth the process and make it easier for leaders to step back.

Much of what Morrissey shared seemed specific to the workplace. As tough as accountability can be there, it can be more challenging outside the workplace, with nonprofits, for example. Many organizations require volunteers to accomplish goals.

Some volunteers are extremely passionate and committed. Others are barely dependable, particularly when no paycheck is involved.

Energizing others

Present. Personal. Passionate. Purposeful. Those are the key attributes of great leaders. Kristi Hedges, the author of “The Power of Presence,” in June released a new book titled “The Inspiration Code,” focusing on those four traits. The book's subtitle is “How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day.”

Being present involves investing full attention and letting conversations flow, according to a synopsis in the book catalog AMACOM, a division of the American Management Association. Being personal involves “speaking genuinely, listening generously, and acknowledging the potential of those around.”

Being passionate requires showing sincere emotion and energy “attuned to the situation,” while being purposeful involves helping others find meaning and seeing their place in the bigger picture.

Hedges, who is based in Washington, D.C., has worked with Fortune 500 companies, privately held businesses and nonprofits.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at