In the previous post, we looked at why we need to have Accountability. Here we look at how we can implement this using an Accountability Agreement.
This is achieved through an Accountability Agreement. This is not some massive document, it is purely an agreement between the person being held accountable and the person that is holding them accountable, you may have this written somewhere, or it could just be a verbal arrangement, with a followup email acknowledgement.
Using The Accountability Agreement
How do you go about getting the most from an Accountability Agreement?
- Contact each other on an ad-hoc basis to have a chat
- Ask how business is going and if there are any concerns
- Get fed up with waiting for results, so do the work for them
- Constantly bombard each other with updates
- Not define any limits, scope or outcome
Do these all look fine to hold someone accountable? No. These are all setting your Accountability Agreement up for failure!
How To Setup for Accountability Success
We want our Accountability Agreement to be successful. We want to enable awesome results. Following these simple steps will assist you in delivering these results.
Define the Purpose
In this section, we are looking at what the Accountability Agreement is trying to achieve. By defining these items at the start it ensures that the Accountability Agreement runs smoothly and to everyone’s benefit.
In this step, you define what the is expected from each of you. An idea of things to include are
- How much time is required from each of you
- When will the agreement start
- When will the agreement end
- How frequently you will meet
- How you will meet and communicate
Here you should cover what the agreement is designed to achieve. A lot of people use this to define the steps that will be taken in achieving a piece of work. Don’t fall into that trap.
Use this section to define the business outcome that is to be achieved. Putting the focus on the outcome stops you from falling into the micromanaging mindset, where every step becomes a talking point. Although we are interested in the method of getting to the outcome, what we are holding someone accountable to is the business outcome.
This is similar to the Expectations. The key difference is the Expectations lays out the broad agreement you have with each other. In the Commitments section, you are providing explicit promises to each other as to what you will do.
This may include items like:
- The person holding you accountable may guarantee you a set amount of exclusive time each week
- Define response times to enquiries. i.e. Phone calls returned on the same day, emails replied to within 2 days etc
- Dedication to each others success
- The person being held accountable to schedule meetings with a minimum of 1 days notice
This section is used to list out special skills required. Here you are looking at the skills of both people in the Accountability Agreement.
If the person who is holding you accountable needs to have certain skills these need to be called out, to make sure that they are really able to help you. An example of this is if your outcome is to produce a 2-year financial forecast for your business, but the person holding you accountable is a computer programmer, then they are not likely to have the skills needed in order to help you succeed.
If the person being held accountable needs any special skills, then call them out here. This will allow training needs to be identified. An example is you would not expect a computer programmer to be able to create a policy for the handling of HR complaints.
(And yes I know my examples are a bit wild – they are, after all, just examples!)
Accept The Accountability Agreement
After we have gone through all these steps, and remember they do not have to be formal, a conversation will do, both people on the Accountability Agreement then need to accept that they are happy.
This step is all about each person taking responsibility for the agreement, and acknowledging their shared commitment to the business outcome.
Finally, and this step is often skipped, document the agreement. We are not talking about a formal contract here. Quite often an email summarising what has been agreed is enough. Make sure to cover each of the points above, and make sure you get a written acknowledgement from both parties that they accept the agreement.
Define the measures you will use
We now have our Accountability Agreement in place. Here we look at how we are going to measure the progress and eventual success of the agreement.
This is where you will start to look at the process to be followed.
The person being held accountable may define a number of milestones that need to be hit, or develop a project plan that will be followed.
The key to this step is that it is the person who is being held accountable that defines the measures, as they need to take ownership of them. Together you would then go over these measures and negotiate any changes needed.
Remember, we are only interested in the business outcome, not the process. The process gets us to the required outcome.
It is a mistake to try and impose your way of working on someone else. Give them the freedom to develop their own path, with gentle guidance and assurance. They may make mistakes, but we all learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.
As with the Purpose, once you have the measures defined then document them, and gain written agreement.
This part can be a bit controversial. Should there be consequences in an Accountability Agreement? This comes down to the “carrot and stick” way of looking at things.
Consequences can provide a good motivation tool when used in a fair and balanced way. Overuse, or having excessive consequences can lead to de-motivation and unhappy team members.
Positive Consequences, or rewards
This can work well in areas where you are trying to build up individual morale. In this scenario when a person achieves a milestone or completes the outcome they get a reward for the completion. These rewards include items like:
- Formal acknowledgement in a team email or meeting
- A gift, maybe cash or item of personal value to the individual
- Extra time off
These can be good for boosting an individuals self-worth and self-belief, but they equally can have negative effects on other team members, who may see people being rewarded whilst they put in an equal amount of work and get nothing for it.
This can work well in pushing people to achieve the minimum level of achievement for the outcome, but it does not incentivise them to push above that minimum level.
In the long term, negative consequences can become ineffective, as you will find that people who miss regularly targets will become demoralised and are likely to leave the organisation.
The use of negative consequences needs to be carefully monitored to ensure it does not turn into bullying and a way of manoeuvring people out of an organisation.
Once again, once the Consequences are agreed, make sure they are documented and acknowledged.
You now have a solid Accountability Agreement. You have defined everything that is needed to ensure the successful attainment of the business outcome. It’s now time to start monitoring and reviewing ensure the accountability is enforced.
There are many ways of doing the review. One of the most effective is through person-to-person review sessions. These ideally should be done face-to-face, but at worst case can be done via telephone.
In these meetings, you will do some of the following.
Ask about any issues that have come up
Here you have the opportunity to ask about issues that have arisen and how they were addressed. Remember this is about exploring the impact on the business outcome, not how it was done.
Ensure still on course to achieve the business outcome
Provides an opportunity to ensure the focus is still on the business outcome. It is very easy to become so engrossed in the process that the outcome does not get realised.
Ask about any possible issues that are foreseen
We often can see issues coming before they hit us. This is about allowing an opportunity to look at these and see that they are addressed early. This is where leading questions and experience come into play. Use this as an education opportunity to pass on knowledge of how you have dealt with similar issues in the past.
Check progress against what was expected
If working on a plan or milestones, were these achieved. If not then you have an opportunity to explore the reasons for this and provide advice on how to adjust the remaining plan to allow for successful delivery.
Other items relevant to the Accountability Agreement
There may be a number of other items you would like to discuss. Remember though, keep it focused on business outcome, not process.
Also, ensure that the person being held accountable still has total ownership of the delivery of the business outcome.
How to get the best out of the review
When going through a review, it’s worth keeping the following in mind:
- Ask open-ended questions, not those with a yes/no answer
- It’s a two-way conversation
- Focus on collaboration
- Expect mistakes – we learn more through how we respond to mistakes than we do through success
- Make sure feedback is relevant and timely
- The focus is on the business outcome, not the process
- Be openminded – just because it is not the way you would do it does not mean it is wrong
At the end of each Review session make sure you document what was discussed and gain acknowledgement.
In order for an Accountability Agreement to work you need to have the following:
- A defined purpose
- Measures for the success of the business outcome
- Consequences that are known and understood
- Regular reviews.
These steps look complex, but most can be discussed and agreed in a short conversation, then documented in a brief email outlining each of the areas. Always make sure you get a written acknowledgement from both parties in the Accountability Agreement so everyone knows what they have committed to.
The key to developing a successful agreement also include
- Collaboration for success
- Building trust
- Being truthful
- Allowing mistakes, and not jumping in to do it for them
- Being a role model
- Documenting each stage and agreement.
Accountability is about delivering on a business outcome. Working together you are able to achieve that.
If you have no-one to keep you accountable then please reach out, by completing the form below, and we can discuss how Next Actions can help you.
Also published on Medium.