I thought it was a great question and I wanted to share my answer to that question with you.
As a Leader, the type of environment I look to create is one where my staff feels accountable for success and they know that I feel accountable for their failure.
This is openly communicated to the teams and it can be done very simply by saying “I know that it’s you 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, it helps to clarify our roles and responsibilities and what we expect from each other.
I have found that 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 your job to ensure that your staff has all the tools needed to be successful and to work to remove any roadblocks that arise that may stop them from being successful. So why not communicate it.
Letting them know that, as their Leader, you know your accountabilities.
Communicating this makes a commitment on your part and shows that you 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 simple as this changed the whole atmosphere, project managers were then more than happy to come to the meetings, and they came well prepared knowing what they needed from me to be successful.
But these meetings were not just about resolving issues.
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 very 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 that the issues were raised in time for corrective action to be taken, which gave us the chance to turn things around.
Taking this approach we were able to increase our on-time delivery from below 30% to over 80%.
Let your teams know that you are there to put them into a position where they can succeed, to support them on that journey and to praise them when the achieve the desired results. This will help them feel that they work with you, not for you, it shows you feel accountable and it will help drive engagement, accountability, and results.