Accountability

I’ve read countless leadership books, watched every related TED Talk, attended workshops, and consulted several executives in order to “study” for the role of managing a team. What I’ve learned is if you do nothing else, do the simple act of making a plan and sticking to it. All of your other leadership skills mean nothing if you are not driving results.

The right leader can drive results from any team of people by applying simple principles of accountability. It works like this:

  1. Set crystal clear goals.

This can sometimes be the most difficult part of effective management. The system I have found to be the most helpful is “Objectives & Key Results,” also known as OKRs. Here’s an example:

Objective: Our customers have an incredible experience using our product.

Key Result #1: Customers rate the experience of using our product 10/10 on our survey.

Key Result #2: 80% of our customers complete the survey.

In this example, you can see that the objective is idealistic, qualitative, and vague. Think of it as what you would say to impress your grandmother. Your key results turn that dream into a science, and become the metrics your employee is responsible for achieving. Key results should be so black and white that they are indisputable. Key results can also be binary, to indicate whether or not a project was completed. Binary OKRs are a great way to measure the work of project managers whose roles typically function without numbers or dollars attached.

Pro-Tip: Have your employee draft and present their OKRs to you. If they create their goal, they will be much more motivated to achieve it. There should be a conversation each quarter in which they propose OKRs, you discuss them, and together you agree to a list of OKRs you are both excited to beat.

Pro-Tip#2: Don’t have more than 3 OKRs.

2. Relentlessly follow up on the progress of these goals.

Make these OKRs the subject of every weekly 1–1. Don’t change the topic until you have been given a full status update on where your employee is toward achieving their OKRs. Have them present their progress to you, not the other way around. Ask questions and dive deeper into numbers that seem vague. Their progress toward achieving key results should be your northern star and an indicator of the health of your team.

3. Communicate openly whether or not goals are being met.

Employees should always know where they stand. Discussing OKRs in your weekly 1–1s will give you the opportunity to keep things on track and indicate to your employee how they are doing relative to their goals. If goals aren’t being met, your employee should devise a concrete plan to meet them. If goals are being met, make sure to recognize and celebrate the achievement. If these guidelines are followed, no promotion or termination should be a surprise — and that lack of surprise is by far the clearest indication of great management.