Exemplary performers teach us a lot about accountability. I learned this lesson years ago as I worked on a project to define the characteristics of an exemplary customer service representative. When asked, “How do you prioritize your time?” She responded, “Well, it is a balancing act. My manager has requested a report by 2:00, but if I don’t take care of my most important client first, we could lose the business.” Clearly, she considered how her actions impact the company as a priority.
Responsibilities vs Accountabilities
Average performers took a “whatever is next” approach to prioritizing tasks. As a result, managers cannot leave it to chance that employees know how to prioritize tasks.
The problem is that most job descriptions contain lists of responsibilities long enough for three jobs. Consequently, a motivated employee, especially a new one, tries to accomplish everything on the list unless managers make distinctions. Determine which duties, tasks, obligations, and contributions impact results most. First, let’s look at the differences:
- Responsibilities: Job descriptions list many duties, tasks, obligations, and contributions.
- Accountabilities: Managers may require an employee “to account” for, or to justify their performance for the most important actions, tasks, and contributions. For more about workplace accountability.
Prioritize Accountabilities over Responsibilities
- Rank tasks according to their impact on results.
- Hold people accountable for successful completion of the top tasks.
- Communicate the value each individual brings to the team. Do this often.
- Set expectations and communicate consequences for both success and failure.
- Ensure individuals are well-trained to perform high priority tasks.
Managers, don’t leave success to chance! Take these steps to ensure you and your team are on track to add maximum value to the organization’s bottom line.