How Coaching Enhances Accountability in the Workplace

Jun 10, 2013 | ARTICLE

Imagine working in a team or organization where there is no interpersonal or team accountability . . . As a supervisor, a major part of your job is ensuring that members of your team are accountable to you, to each other, and to the public they serve. Accountability begins with clear goals and expectations against which you can measure performance. People who are accountable do what they say they will do.

Continuum of Accountability

Accountability involves both negative and positive responses to performance. “Catching employees doing it right” is just as important as acting on unacceptable performance…. Feedback you give to ensure accountability should be appropriate to the employee’s performance, commitment, and attitude. For example, how you deal with a team member who is really trying yet still not performing to expectations may be very different from your approach to an employee who isn’t committed to the work unit and is a chronically poor performer.

Your responses to an individual’s performance can be viewed along a continuum of accountability that includes responding to both positive and negative behaviors using praise, recognition, and rewards; coaching; counseling; performance improvement plans; and progressive discipline.

Eight Ways to Improve Your Coaching

Effective coaches don’t win by making last-second decisions. They are with the team from the beginning on the sidelines, shouting words of encouragement, and giving the team the tools it needs to succeed. Just like a coach on the playing field or a conductor in front of an orchestra, an effective organizational team leader sets the standard, provides the tools, gives advice when it is needed, and lets the team play to the best of its abilities.

The following principles can improve your coaching success:

  1. Be a conversation partner. Coaching means interacting with team members by having regular and frequent conversations about performance.
  2. Define the outcomes. To be an effective coach, you must communicate what your vision is for your team. Your employees cannot strive toward a goal unless they know what it is.
  3. Clarify performance expectations. Coaching means communicating both organizational and personal goals.
  4. Build dynamic capability. As the organization and team members develop their talents and skills, goals will change. Good coaching means helping employees be prepared for each wave of change and learning to learn.
  5. Engage your team members’ interests and passions. One way to encourage positive performance and professional development is to offer your employees “stretch assignments” that encourage them to develop their skills and talents.
  6. Recognize teachable moments. Effective coaches recognize that the smallest incidents can foster learning and growth.
  7. Use multiple coaching media. All coaching need not occur face-to-face; it can happen by e-mail, over the phone, or through a written note.
  8. Provide recognition and rewards. Coaching isn’t just about letting people know when their performance needs improvement; it’s also about catching them doing things right.

Coaching team members for improved performance is an important skill for all supervisors. It is your chance to guide your team to higher levels of performance and achievement and to watch them grow and develop as individuals along the way.

Excerpted from “Chapter 10: Accountability in the Workplace,” in Effective Supervisory Practices: Better Results Through Teamwork Fifth Edition. ©ICMA, 2013.

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