Accountability & Responsibility Part IV

For the fourth and final installment of our Accountability & Responsibility series, we'll cover delegation and good feedback. Accountability is really about delegation - letting other people take over tasks, and giving them the support to do it right.

We'll first examine the basic do's and don'ts of proper delegation.

  • Do's:
    • Specify the results expected.
    • Explain why you are delegating.
    • Give the necessary authority to carry out the task.
    • Let others know of the delegation.
    • Have confidence in employees.
  • Don'ts:
    • Only delegate trivial tasks.
    • Expect others to do the job as well as you can.
    • Delegate haphazardly.
    • Be an automatic delegate.
    • Check constantly to see how things are going (micro-managing).
    • Take credit for results achieved by staff.
    • Overload employees.

These guidelines make up the basic foundation of delegation. Now we're going to take a look at the four levels of delegation.

Delegation doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can give the employees as much or as little authority as you want, but remember that less authority means less accountability.

  1. Level 1 - No Authority: If the assignment is especially important or difficult, if the team member is new, or if the type of assignment is new to him or her, it's often wise for you to assume all authority. This level of authority should be used as little as possible since it indicates a low level of trust. Even so, use this level when you have doubts about the successful completion of the task or when the task is so important that you want a high degree of involvement.
  2. Level 2 - Minimal Authority: As the team member gains experience, it is desirable to allow him/her greater latitude in action. This method allows the team member to have a say in determining his/her goals and performance standards. At the same time, you stay informed fo the team member's progress and have an opportunity to intervene if difficult problems arise.
  3. Level 3 - Medium Authority: This level of authority allows the team member to make some levels of decisions without you. For this level of authority, the team member sets the goals, plans, and performance standards. The employee then acts autonomously (with regular status reports to you), and consults you only if he/she encounters a particularly difficult problem or customer.
  4. Level 4 - Complete Authority: When the team member has become a trusted employee who has demonstrated competence in completing the type of task assigned, you can grant complete authority. You will be completely removed from the assignment, even after it is completed. This is the level managers should hope to achieve with most employees on most assignments. When properly executed, this level gives you more discretionary time and the confidence that all work is being completed as scheduled. With this level of authority, you have only minimal interaction with the team member in the form of a status report. However, it does create maximum trust and ownership.

Giving good feedback goes hand-in-hand with good delegation. You have to be able to offer effective useful feedback so employees can move up through the four levels of delegation and authority. We sometimes miss opportunities to give supportive feedback because we think people know when they are doing well. However, people often don't know if they are on the right track unless you tell them. Supportive feedback reinforces that the decisions or choices they made are right and are noticed by you.

In the same way, we miss opportunities to give supportive feedback, we sometimes miss the opportunity to give corrective feedback because we are afraid that giving unpleasant feedback could result in a difficult to handle response or harm a relationship. In reality, delaying that feedback can do more harm in the long run.

Here are a few tips for effective feedback:

  • Feedback is positive first. One technique is to say what you like first before you mention your concerns. Being positive gets the person in a better frame of mind to hear the other side.
  • Effective feedback is well-timed. In general, feedback is most useful at the earliest opportunity after the given behavior.
  • State the constructive part purpose of the feedback and what you hope to accomplish. This provides the focus you need for your communication to be effective. If you are initiating the conversation, it means the other person doesn't have to guess where you are headed.
  • Give the other person an opportunity to respond.
  • Give the feedback in private if your comments could be taken as embarrassing, but don't forget that sincere praise in front of others is usually very welcomed.
  • Don't rely on hearsay, rumor, or second-hand accounts. Base your comments on documentation, facts, and your own observations.

If you're the one receiving the feedback, we have a couple tips for you too:

  • Listen attentively. Make sure you understand the criticism.
  • Ask for details. Replace defensiveness with curiosity. Find out as much as you can about the incident or situation.
  • Find something to agree with. Remember, part of being accountable is accepting and giving responsibility as appropriate.
  • More importantly, you need to recognize the other person's right to give you feedback, and to recognize the importance of the person's concern.

There you have it! A comprehensive look at all of the aspects of Accountability and Responsibility in the work place. Remember that a lot of these lessons are applicable in your day-to-day life as well!

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for our next series!