Top 5 Tips for Practicing Accountability with Empathy

If one good thing has come from a global pandemic that sent thousands of employees to work-from-home situations where kids, pets, leaf-blowers, connectivity challenges, and overall high levels of anxiety became the “norm,” it is this: employers and employees alike have all experienced first-hand the value of empathy.

That said, Executives and employees must still deliver results and ensure that their customers are served.  Here are five ways we have found to navigate the fine balance between maintaining Accountability while still achieving results.

  1. Lead with Connection: ask about peoples’ lives and be willing to share authentically as well. If you ask 80% of the time, in the 20% of conversations that you need information fast, people are more likely to give you grace and understand the urgency.
  2. Candidly Discuss Rationale to Gain Shared Commitment: Why is what you are asking for important? What else may be important? How do these things prioritize against each other?
  3. Commit to Work using the “Agile” Minimum Viable Product Approach: What are the highest priority things that will get us where we need to be? Ask the team to pull to specific items from that list which are achievable in a certain time* period. *common sprint timeframe is 2-weeks.
  4. Institute regular Retrospectives: Beyond just confirming whether work is done or not, make it a standard practice to discuss how it happened: What lead to us achieving or not achieving our desired outcomes? Could we have done anything better, and if so what? Focus on the process and role model accepting your share of the feedback without being defensive.
  5. Acknowledge Results: Genuinely praise successes, citing specific positive aspects of teamwork and effort; and meet in private to discuss expectations that were not met. It is more considerate to another human being to consistently enforce real consequences than to let poor performance slide, and better serves that person in the long run.

Three books that we recommend on this are:

  1. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  2. Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute
  3. The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland 

AJC is committed to practicing Accountability with Empathy and would love to talk further with you about how we do this in all our service areas of Project Management, Process Improvement, Change Management, and Agile Consulting.