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It's not my place to run the train The whistle I can't blow.

It's not my place to say how far The train's allowed to go.

It's not my place to shoot off steam Nor even clang the bell.

But let the damn thing jump the track And see who catches hell.

-The Engineer's Dilemma

This tongue-in-cheek poem is a light-hearted examination of something we've all experienced throughout our careers. We were not granted the authority to own our projects and tasks, and when the outcome wasn't just right, we found ourselves on the hook.

If you want to cultivate accountability among your managers and employees, you must be willing and able to grant authority.

Your Managers Need Four Minimum Areas Of Authority

Raise your hand if you have a manager on your team who simply will not accept accountability.

This situation is frustrating, but if you dive below the surface, you may find a lack of authority. Without the tools and the autonomy to make key decisions regarding their team's outcome, they cannot truly steer the group in the direction of success.

So how much authority should they have? The answer can differ, depending upon the manager's experience, level of leadership, and function. While it might look a bit different in every situation, achieving accountability always requires you, as a leader, to grant your managers four minimum authorities:

  1. The Authority to Veto Assignment of an Unacceptable Candidate to Their Team
  2. The Authority to Assign or Approve All Tasks to Their Direct Reports
  3. The Authority to Review Effectiveness, Reward within Limits, and Recognize their Direct Reports
  4. The Authority to Initiate Removal of a Team Member from their Team

Notice how these four authorities impact the effectiveness of a manager's team and ultimately, their results. Give them the control they need and then get out of their way. This is the recipe for developing managers who value accountability.

Putting Managers In the Drivers Seat

You cannot expect a manager to be accountable for something where they do not have authority. Leaders can only grant authority, however, when managers are capable of implementing it. That capability must be developed through coaching and training, especially in less-experienced employees.

For example, you may not want to grant a new manager authority number four from above, the authority to remove a team member. As a novice, they lack the experience to know when a difficult employee might actually be a valuable contributor. Through a strong coaching relationship, you can help the manager develop the "muscles" to see the nuances between an employee who can be a proverbial "PITA," but who gets the job done and motivates other employees to achieve.

When the goal is managerial accountability, you must allow them to get into the driver's seat and take control. Grant them the authority they need to influence results, and they will embrace accountability for those outcomes.


Larry Hart

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