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Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
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Effective Leadership Strategies for New Managers: Addressing Accountability

Effective Leadership Strategies for New Managers: Addressing Accountability

Justin, a newly appointed manager, finds himself in a challenging position common in leadership roles for the first time. As he navigates the complexities of his new responsibilities, one significant hurdle he faces is holding his team members accountable. He told me he wants his team to become more responsive, more productive, and happier, but he was not sure how to start.

Justin’s struggle with accountability may stem from several factors typical for new managers. First, there is the desire to be liked, which might make him reluctant to enforce rules or standards.

Second, he may lack experience in giving constructive feedback or fear confrontation when expectations are not met.
Third, without established authority and respect, team members may not take his efforts to enforce accountability seriously.

What can Justin do?

  1. Set Clear Expectations

The foundation of accountability is clear expectations. Justin should ensure that every team member understands what is expected of them in terms of job roles, performance standards, and organizational goals.
Specifically, Justin can:

  • Define roles and responsibilities: Use job descriptions and one-on-one meetings to clarify each person’s duties.
  • Set specific and measurable goals: Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART).
  • Communicate standards and procedures: Discuss how tasks should be performed and the quality expected.
  1. Mandate Accountability

Justin must cultivate an environment where accountability is valued and practiced by everyone.

Leading by example: Justin needs to demonstrate accountability in his own work. His commitment to his responsibilities will set a good example for the team.

  • Encouraging transparency and open communication: Foster an atmosphere where team members can share ideas, concerns, and feedback without fear of negative repercussions.
  • Recognizing and rewarding accountability: Acknowledge individuals who consistently meet or exceed expectations, which reinforces positive behavior.
  1. Communicate with Helpful Feedback

To hold people accountable, Justin must master the art of constructive and welcome feedback.

  • Regular feedback: Justin must remember that he needs to provide feedback consistently, not just during annual reviews. This keeps everyone aligned and focused on improvement.
  • Balanced feedback: Ensure that feedback is balanced, offering praise where due and discussing areas for improvement.
  • Actionable feedback: Feedback should be clear, direct, and actionable, providing specific steps or changes needed to meet expectations.
  1. Use Supportive Accountability Tools

People need the right tools to be able to do their jobs properly. Tools and systems can aid in maintaining accountability.

  • Performance management software: Utilize tools that track progress against goals and facilitate regular check-ins.
  • Project management systems: These can help keep tasks on track and visibly share progress with the entire team.
  • Regular team meetings: Use these gatherings to review team and individual progress, discuss challenges, and adjust plans, as necessary.

Justin, like many new managers, realized that effectively holding people accountable is a critical skill that can determine his success in leadership. He understands that he needs to take the right steps to grow into his role as a respected and effective manager.


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