Is your workforce accountable?

Accountable employees identify a situation, take ownership of the situation, work a plan to solve it and then follow through.

Accountability is a term that gets used frequently when talking about leadership and managing staff.  However, many forget that there are two forms of accountability between a manager and an employee – the employee’s accountability to the job and farm, and the manager’s accountability to the employee.

Many would say that accountability is about taking responsibility for your actions, and while this is part of accountability as defined in most leadership training courses, accountability goes beyond that.  At AgCareers.com our Leadership Enhancement course describes accountability as rising above one’s circumstances to achieve the desired results, or continually asking what more can I do.

Accountable employees can identify a situation, take ownership of the situation, work a plan to solve it and then follow through.  Unaccountable employees may say things like:  ‘It isn’t my job;’ ‘I’ll just wait to see what happens;’ or ‘That is Tom’s responsibility.’

How accountable your workforce is will be shaped in part by how accountable the manager is.  

If a manager is not responsible for his or her actions, places blame on others, or shifts responsibility to others, it is likely that staff will follow suit and do the same.  A manager who encourages employees to seek out answers to questions, new opportunities, and solutions to challenges and then provides positive feedback when an employee does so will find that they have fostered a culture where employees are empowered to be accountable.

Can you delegate?

Part of accountability can have a bit to do with the manager’s ability to delegate. Allowing staff to take on projects is a large part of them becoming accountable for aspects of the operation. How a manager delegates can depend a lot on the experience level of each individual employee. This can be defined as directive behavior or supportive behavior. Directive behavior is taking action as a leader to organize and define the job for your employee – this includes specifics like what the job is, how to do it, and when. 

One example of when directive behavior may be used would be when a new employee starts their job.  They will need a little more direction until they understand more about their job, the operation and their resources.

Supportive behavior is when a leader is comfortable enough with an employee to understand the amount of help, encouragement, direction, and listening needed when assigning a project. Supportive direction or delegation, might be used with a more senior staff member, who has proven to be accountable.

Effective leaders decrease their directive behavior and increase their supportive behavior as people get better at their job. When people are at their full potential and secure in their job, supportive behavior can also be decreased. Delegating tasks is one of the easiest ways to give employees a sense of achievement or accountability. 

An accountable workforce is the backbone of a healthy operation. Evaluate your own accountability and model the behavior that you’d like to see in your staff.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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