This is the 5th in a 7-part series on the topic of accountability, based on book “Crucial Accountability”, 2013 (authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler)

We’ll continue exploring the model presented in Part 2 of this series:

Step 3: Describe the Gap

Once the story is mastered, it is time to engage in the conversation. Feeling safe (time and place) for both parties is a necessary foundation. Ask the recipient what might be an ideal time and place to have a conversation.

Once safety is assured, start the conversation by describing the gap through sharing what specifically you observed versus what was expected.

If you sense feelings that a safety risk occurred in your directness through verbal or non-verbal cues, go back and create a foundation of safety before moving on. It is important that the recipient knows that you have the utmost respect for them and are genuinely interested in their success.

One way to build respect is prior to having the conversation, imagine how the recipient may feel about what happened and consider possible reactions. They likely will assume the worst case scenario when you meet with them.

Start the conversation by laying the worst case on the table and stating that is not what you mean; then explain what your intent. This is especially important when addressing broken promises.

Get clear on consequences

Understanding the consequences of actions is important for both parties to appreciate and agree on. Consider the consequences in respect to:

– the level of micro-management (Relationships)

– workplace relationships (Tasks)

– client revenue (Stakeholders)

Each possible consequence needs to be evaluated in order to prioritize the impact of accountability. Help the recipient understand and acknowledge the consequences of their actions by:

Linking to values: How will their values be enabled when going in a new direction

Understanding the long term impact: Demonstrate how the perceived short term benefits could have long-term challenges

Sharing stakeholder impact: Show potential victims of current actions

Explaining rewards: Share the connection to existing reward systems.

Explore consequences until something resonates with them as important. This ground work is required to open up discussion on root causes and accepting the need for behavioural change.

Root cause analysis of motivation and ability

Work with the recipient in a collaborative way through the Six Levels of Influence model and brainstorm possible root causes of gaps in accountability challenges. You may discover that others could be facing the same issue due to systemic, communication or team culture issues.

Get clear on whether the gaps are a result of a motivation or ability problem? A quick way to identify motivation versus ability is to imagine forcing them to do what is being asked – could they?

If yes, it is not an ‘ability’ issue. Be mindful that some employees may be masking their ability due to fear of negative consequences; they would rather be disciplined than shamed.

Glen Sollors, Senior Consultant