Coach's VIEW

Coach's VIEW is a business column authored by executive coaches in COACH A, aimed at providing valuable insights and effective approaches for leveraging coaching to foster organizational and leadership development. The column draws on the latest coaching trends and data, as well as insights from notable global publications on coaching.

Do Not Leave Your Hard-Working Subordinates Alone

Do Not Leave Your Hard-Working Subordinates Alone
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"Accountability" in coaching means "the awareness and attitude to take responsibility for one's own work and business" and "the awareness and attitude of each person to think and act on his/her own responsibility". It may be similar to the term "a sense of ownership".

How could we, as leaders, manage accountability in organizations?

I Have to Keep Trying On My Own

In my previous job, I was in charge of a new business development manager. At that time, I wanted to get the business off the ground and make it grow as rapidly as possible, so I was working in a full cycle of grasping the current situation, identifying problems, and implementing improvement measures on the front lines. In addition to sales and profit growth, the issues with high priority for me were training of human resources and executive development.

One day, I had to meet with one manager of the store where revenue dropped off suddenly and staff resignations were increasing. She had a strong sales mindset and a mission to make sure that the budget was met. She seemed to be an extremely motivated and capable manager to me, but in her 360° evaluation, she received a number of complaints from staff members about her. When I asked her staff members, I found that she became frustrated with slow workers and sometimes gave them the cold shoulder, which apparently was a factor in some resignations.

When I gave her feedback on this in a face-to-face meeting, she said,
"I do not know why people are saying that to me even though I have kindly guided very slow working staff members. I have been doing my best in my work every day, but if my way is not accepted by all staff members, then I will do what you tell me to do. Please tell me how I should handle this."

I told her my expectations for her, and at the same time asked her to reconsider her attitude towards her colleagues. She smiled, nodded, and showed more commitment to her duties than ever before.

However, her staff members could not keep up with her hard work even after this meeting. She said to them, "It is all my fault that our performance is declining. It also seemed that I was the cause of the staff resigning. Anyway, I have to resolve the situation as soon as possible. I will give you all the instructions, and all you have to do is to follow them." It seemed that she became more isolated. And the store's performance deteriorated.

I Will Work Hard on My Own

"Everything is my responsibility."
When I saw her saying these words and struggling, I realized with a strong feeling that she was alone on her own. Then I felt as if I was watching myself in the past with my painful heart in my previous job. I was not good at relying on others. In fact, somewhere along the way I thought it was not desirable to rely on others. I had the belief that I had to overcome difficulties on my own, and I was proud of my own achievements in overcoming difficulties in this way. Hence, I was trying to encourage my subordinates to do their best with minimal supervision.

I had another meeting with her later on and told her;
"You are very responsible and very reliable, but it seems to me that you are managing everything on your own. Even though no one has the same capabilities as you do, you have many staff members who have other strengths that you might not have. So, why don't you collaborate more with other staff members around you? I will continuously support you, so let's work together to make this store better."

My voice sounded trembling while speaking to her, as if I was telling myself. I had no idea what I could do for her except what I told her at that meeting.

Assembling Accountability

We sometimes suffer from a sense of self-blame, saying, "It's all my fault".
Perhaps the concept of responsibility for one's own actions means that he or she takes full responsibility for all actions. However, the "accountability" I mentioned at the beginning of this article is not the same as self-blame. It is a mindset for us to seek every possibility of what we can do and what others can do in order to achieve the goals we have undertaken, instead of being totally involved in everything as "a single person's responsibility".

The coaching manual by COACH A states about accountability as follows; "People who are accountable access the accountability of others around them by asking what they can do for them.*1

When I encountered this perspective, my understanding of "accountability" was transformed. I began to realize that it is not about overcoming difficulties on my own, but about inviting others and collaborating with them in order to fulfill my responsibilities. It was then that I felt a shift from an internal state of mind, to an external state of mind, where I became more aware of the outside world and others.

If it was now, as a leader, I would say,
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Let me help you leverage your strengths effectively."

If I had been able to say those words to her then, she may have collaborated with her staff members to reach her goals. Perhaps, the way I interacted with her, made her feel isolated somehow?

Through this experience, I learned that a leader's accountability itself has a great impact on creating a team in which members proactively take responsibility for their work and business, to think and act on their own initiative. Do not let hard-working subordinates suffer from self-blame. Do not leave them alone. I believe that it is each leader's challenge to hold each staff member accountable and design the future of the organization.

*1 COACHACADEMIA, "F08 Accountability" manual, p. 11, COACH A., 2015.

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Language: Japanese

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