Members of high performing teams are going to be the most satisfied when they feel like they can have an impact on the outcome of their work.
Members of high performing teams are going to be the most satisfied when they feel like they can have an impact on the outcome of their work. To get to that point you need to understand the difference between accountability and responsibility and how authority interplays with both of them.
Accountability is an external force. That’s where somebody tells you, “You are responsible for these results and I am going to hold you accountable to meeting them. If you meet them, there are benefits and if you fail to, there are consequences.” Responsibility is when we as individuals hold ourselves accountable. We find that inside and say, “Here’s the standard and I’m going to make sure that I achieve that goal.”
Making sure that people are able to be satisfied in performing those activities requires you, as the leader, to give them authority. Authority is the power to make decisions. It requires you to delegate and accept risk if someone makes a mistake. It empowers people to give them authority and it makes them feel like, “Hey boss, you trust me. You’re letting me make these decisions where I’m accountable for the results.” It’s really unfair to hold someone accountable for a result if we don’t give them the authority to impact the outcome.
At one point in my career, I was responsible for making acquisitions for our division. We would buy companies that were out in the marketplace and try and grow our business unit in doing so. My boss said to me, “You have to do this many deals a year and we need this type of financial return. You’re going to be measured on your performance on how well those deals go. Whatever you have to do to make that deal happen, you are empowered to make those decisions.”
Now the critical piece of this was my boss gave me the authority to impact those decisions. There was one deal that came up where it was pretty contentious between us and the person we were trying to purchase the business from. I personally got to negotiate with this other business owner. I tried multiple different deal structures. I offered certain things and in return asked for others. I was able to negotiate the entire deal, but my boss had empowered me to make those trade-offs and make those decisions.
Ultimately, I was able to hold myself responsible for the performance of that deal. The deal went well, but more important that than was I felt like my boss trusted me. I felt like I had the ability to control the outcome of my work. I probably worked harder on that deal than I’ve worked up to that point in my career because I was excited about it and I owned the result.
As you think about your people and what you hold them accountable to in terms of metrics and performance, you have to be willing to give them the authority to make those decisions. Because if you don’t, it’s unfair to hold them accountable for the result when they can’t affect that result with the decisions that they make. That empowerment is going to be the key to their satisfaction with their work.
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