Make people accountable for success, not for failure.

As a Leader, the type of environment I try to create is one where my staff feel accountable for success and they know that I feel accountable for their failure.

This is openly communicated to the teams and can be done very simply.

“I know that it’s you guys who do all of the actual work not me.  My job is to ensure that you are successful, that you have all the tools and necessary support to be successful.  If you feel that’s not happening then please let me know and I will address it.”

This is the agreement I look to create with the teams.

Taking this approach creates a trusting environment between the Leader and his staff.

Trust that the credit for success will be given to the team or individual who delivered it.

Trust that if problems arise then the Leader will help to resolve them, to help get the task back on track.

As a Leader it is our job to ensure that our staff have all the tools needed to be successful and to work to remove any roadblocks that arise that may stop them being successful.  So why not communicate it.

Letting them know that, as Leaders, we know our accountabilities.

Communicating this makes a commitment on our part and shows that we are happy to be held accountable for this.

In one company I worked for on time delivery of projects was very low, below 30%.

As this was an area where I took over responsibility so I was keen to significantly improve the situation. My first action was to implement formal project reviews with myself and other key staff.

To my surprise this was not greeted with the enthusiasm I had hoped for.

In fact several project managers approached me and told me so. They told me that being shot in public for their failure was not going to help improve either the success rate or morale.

I told them that, for me this was not going to be a public execution. This was to be a forum where they could raise issues, where they could highlight problems and make requests directly to me for support and assistance, and I would do everything I could to help.

As I was accountable for the overall situation I needed to be involved in helping to resolve the issues.

Just communicating something as simply as this changed the whole atmosphere, project managers were then more than happy to come to the meetings.

One project manager told me he wasn’t going to come to the review as his project was on time, on budget and that all quality targets were being exceeded, so he didn’t feel the need to attend the meeting.

I said to him I was disappointed as that took away the opportunity for me to say well-done, great job in front of his peers and his manager, but it was up to him if he didn’t want to come.

Not surprisingly he came to the review, where I praised his performance and he was happy.

Taking this approach also ensured that we did not have a blame culture. I had created a culture where people felt that they could raise issues and would get help.

This approach actually increased the amount of help requested, not the amount needed, but the amount requested.

It also encouraged people to ask for help earlier as they knew they would be helped rather than blamed.

This was massively beneficial, previously, I was informed of issues when it was too late to do anything, but now the issues were raised in time for corrective action to have a chance to turn things around.

Taking this approach we were able to increase our on time delivery from below 30% to over 80%.