THE MISSING INGREDIENT IN ACCOUNTABILITY
Feature article by Kevin E. Coray, PhD, President, Coray Gurnitz Consulting, Somatic Coach, and Author of the Extraordinary Teams Inventory*
Conditions of Satisfaction are a critical factor in the productivity and culture of organizations. This brief article looks at two key aspects of Conditions of Satisfaction (CoS): Requests and Commitments.
Requests: The practice needed to have complete conversations and make effective requests is adapted from the work of Fernando Flores (e.g. Olalla, Strozzi, Brothers) and relates to one key notion, in how the supervisor makes a request. Knowing one's CoS is the beginning of a full cycle from making a request, to talking with the person asked to do the task to negotiate the terms of satisfaction, through delivery in which the employee completes the task while providing status information to the supervisor, and finally to feedback where the supervisor provides assessment of the employee's delivery on conditions of satisfaction.
Sometimes CoS gets generalized into a values-based continuum in which people are judged on the degree to which they are "accountable." Behind this continuum of assessment lies a tricky set of behaviors and ways of being present in making requests (supervisor) and in making promises (employee) that lead to intentions and impacts that contribute to assessments of an employee's accountability. Consider one scenario in which a supervisor doesn't provide CoS, but is open to an employee defining the request that results in the development of acceptable CoS. In another scenario, the same supervisor might make a similarly poor request of another employee who doesn't have the skills or relationship with the supervisor to generate CoS. As time passes, the first employee is likely to be judged as more accountable, when in fact the supervisor has significant impact on the outcome.
Commitments: The supervisor's role in employee accountability cannot be overemphasized. Imagine a leader trying to coach two employees toward greater performance. Nancy is a consummate organizational development professional and the mother of two. She has a personal commitment to excellence in her profession as a change management consultant but also to being home for her kids each day by 5:00 pm without taking work home with her. Joe is single, is also committed to being an effective consultant and likes to leave early from work for sports and other activities on weekends. During the weekend, Joe doesn't like to be bothered by work. Molly, their boss, has children in college and spends about 60 hours a week working. When she makes a request that includes staying late to get a job completed, she often gets a "Yes" from Joe and a "No" from Nancy. Although Molly knows Nancy's commitment to her work-life balance, the need to get things done during off work hours creates a conflict for her. When a deliverable requires working on the weekend, neither Joe, nor Nancy give a "Yes" to Molly's request. There may be a missing conversation at play in one or more places: Molly with the client; Molly with Joe and Nancy; and Joe or Nancy with Molly.
Ultimately, accountability has to be considered within the framework of the individual and team commitments of the parties in the team. In many teams to which I have had the opportunity to consult and coach, the missing ingredient is a clear commitment from each team member to the team that also respects individual and team needs. Besides goals and values, this is a very effective way for a supervisor to be generative in managing and mentoring people, as well as in holding them accountable. Specifically, if a supervisor knows the employee's commitment (i.e. the employee's declaration about how she wants to be or to show up), then he can assess or coach the employee in moving toward that commitment. If the supervisor doesn't know the employee's commitment to the team, then his assessments may be based on informal group norms or expectations or even in his own commitments projected onto the employee.
We are all personally accountable to our own commitments. If we are to act with integrity, then we need to know what our commitments are to ourselves, in relation to others, and to the teams of which we are members. If we are truly effective leaders, we must generate action within the commitments of those we lead.
*To learn more about Kevin and the Extraordinary Teams Inventory, go to:
You can also learn more about the book Extraordinary Groups or about the Extraordinary Teams Inventory, as well as free resources to use these concepts, at: http://extraordinarygroups.com/