Accountability is the key to the health of any organization. According to Forbes, it helps strengthen culture, ensures ownership, builds trust, sets expectations, achieves common goals and helps define the mission. Recently, I was fortunate to attend a seminar by Joseph Grenny, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker and social scientist, on conversations about accountability and conflict. He describes conflict as a gap between the expected and the observed. Here are a few takeaways from Grenny’s presentation for when you have to discuss accountability and failed expectations.
Accountability Discussions Start with Safety
People will most likely get defensive or go silent if they feel attacked or not safe in a conversation. Neither of these will end in a productive outcome to the current issue. To create a safe space during a difficult conversation, there are two important ingredients that every conversation should have:
- Mutual Purpose: Build common ground before even getting to the problem and start with what’s important to you and them. Always ask permission to speak about the issue and try to avoid just dropping the issue on someone. These conversations should always be done in private so no one feels attacked publicly.
- Mutual Respect: When you are in a difficult conversation about a big issue, it is easy for the other person to assume that you don’t respect them. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt and don’t charge in with an accusation.
Describe the Expected vs. the Observed
Accountability is about having clear expectations. Taking the time to explain what the expectations were versus what was actually observed is the opportunity to explain where the gap is that is causing the conflict.
Focus on the Facts
It is easy to get caught up in emotions or draw conclusions about what happened. To avoid this, stick to the facts and avoid expressing what is happening in your head. If more than one person was involved, take the time to gather facts to put together the whole story.
End with a Question
Ending with a question opens up the conversation for the other person. It shows that your goal is not to punish them or be right but to solve the problem with all of the information out in the open.
While utilizing these skills may be difficult at first, over time they can build trust and contribute to the overall health and vitality of an organization. If you struggle with having difficult conversations, we offer a variety of training sessions to help address any conversation.