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By Darryl Stewart

A former softie manager now holding people accountable

By Darryl Stewart, Head of the Herd

Last week I shared the situation of a manager I am trying to help.

He is loved by his staff because he lets them get things done their own way, but he feels he is not a great manager because the results he is achieving with his team are not what they could be.   This is a pattern that has been repeating for him.

high priority stampI suggested to him last week that he has leadership and motivation gifts that many managers lack and with the addition of one new skill set, he could be truly amazing.  I think he needs to develop his ability to agree on clear outcomes with his team, to measure progress against them, and hold people accountable for results.

He is over the squeamish feeling he initially had with the phrase “hold people accountable” and he has resolved to master this.

So what did he do last week?

He met with his 3 current team members to affirm their top 3 team priorities.  This is not new to him or his team; they have done this many times before.  What was new was that they stayed focused on the top 3 things and pushed aside all the other issues that were coming up.

With the 3 priorities agreed:

  • They defined a specific goal for each priority.
  • He asked exactly who would be responsible for each goal, in what roles, and they talked this out.
  • He challenged the group to come up with how to measure the success of the work on these goals, how they would know when success was reached and how they would measure the progress along the way.
  • He challenged the timelines, asking people to think through what could realistically happen when.
  • He had the team come up with a list of the things that could mess up the completion of these goals and they talked about each.

We talked at the end of last week about how this went.  He was exhausted by the process, but energized by the feeling at the end.

His observations:

  • When he challenged the group to clearly define who would be responsible for what, they found some issues that would have cost valuable time later.
  • When they worked on how to measure progress and success, they got even clearer on what the true goals were and what would have to happen when.
  • When he challenged people to think through who would do what when, the timeline got much longer, but more realistic.
  • When they talked about things that could cause them to not achieve the goals, a critical issue came up.  One that is being dealt with now, before a failure occurs and the whole team misses its goals.

His advice to others:

  • If you have a short attention span, spread this over a few meetings. They did this in 3 sessions of around 90 minutes each.  Before they would all be so tired from meeting that would not get to the all-important detail on timing and accountability.
  • Write down everything and review and summarize the stuff yourself.  This helps you see the gaps and be ready to fill them at the next meeting.
  • Be very prepared for each meeting, you are the leader and the success of these meetings depends more on you than anyone else.

His final achievement from all this is a four page document that has the 3 priorities and their goals listed.

Here are the headings for each priority

  • Priority name
  • Description of priority
  • Goals we are trying to achieve (How will we know when we are done?)
  • How will we measure progress along the way?
  • Accountability (who is in charge of what?)
  • Action Required, by whom, deadline

They also have a section called concerns that could change the top priorities. This is where they uncovered a big issue they needed to deal with now.

He plans to use the work they did to check in each week or two on each goal.  For example, one of these measurements is the progress on the implementation of a new program.  They broke it down into 16 steps between now and January.  In the past, he would have just asked how it is going. Now he will also ask what steps are done and how many are left.  This new level of detail gives him measureable information to help him do what he is awesome at, coach people to success. Now the success is just much better defined.  It also will show him early if progress on the goals is slipping and give him time to take action with the person or with the plan as the case may be.

I have a sheet for doing this that I am happy to share.  Drop me an email or comment on the blog and I will send it to you.

  1. Hi Darryl,

    Great blog – especially for someone who tends to get lost in the details! I would like a copy of the sheet on team priorities.


    • Hi Heather,

      Glad you liked the blog. It is hard to stay focused on the most important things and not get overwhelmed by all the details of all the demands on us. Just like everything else in life, when we slip just get up again the next day and try and get back on the wagon. In this case going back to the big priorities.

      I am emailing you the sheet now Heather.

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