Striking the right balance between accountability and engagement in the workplace can be a challenging task for leaders. One is directly manageable and the other is not. Accountability is something leaders can control, while engagement is something they can hopefully influence.
Many leaders claim that they want more accountability from their employees, but they’re also looking for greater levels of enthusiasm. The secret to balancing the two and achieving high levels of both is to recognize and capitalize on their interdependence. Leadership is about helping people to do their best work, and understanding the relationship between holding employees accountable and creating an environment that fosters engagement will result in higher levels of collaboration and individual performance.
Accountability and engagement, while interdependent, are managed through different performance practices and many leaders will disproportionately favor one over the other—and this is where the performance system breaks down. The key to successfully managing both is to build cultures where accountability can flourish in a healthy and supportive environment.
In her book Double the Love: 11 Secrets for Cultivating Highly Accountable and Engaged Teams, Lisa Haneberg illustrates the roles of accountability versus engagement and explains that, “Both are critical for success. Both are important. But the managerial practices that strengthen one might not be the same as those that build the other—in fact, it is unlikely.”
She adds that, “Accountability is a ‘push’ system; engagement is a ‘pull’ system. When we hold someone accountable, we are the ones in charge and calling the shots. We are pushing expectations and consequences to our employees. When it comes to engagement, however, employees are the ones in control and calling the shots. Our practices as leaders, then, must pull them in or they won’t work. This important distinction hints at why the practices that reinforce each system are different.”
What are the unique managerial practices that drive accountability and engagement, and how can organizations leverage these to promote greater performance? How are you managing them in your organization?
Please join @weknownext at 3 p.m. ET on July 23 for #Nextchat with special guests Lisa Haneberg (@LisaHaneberg) and Sharlyn Lauby (@Sharlyn_Lauby). We’ll chat about how leaders can distinguish the practices necessary for accountability and engagement and leverage both for higher performance.
Q1. What is the difference between accountability and engagement in the workplace?
Q2. What well-intentioned efforts by leaders to engage employees often produce the opposite results?
Q3. What specific leadership competencies are important to manage a team’s accountability?
Q4. What specific leadership competencies are necessary to developing an atmosphere that engages employees and teams?
Q5. Which is more indicative of a management problem–low levels of accountability or low levels of engagement?
Q6. As a leader, what are some of the unintended consequences of increasing the accountability of your employees?
Q7. What are the keys to striking the right balance between employee accountability and engagement?
Q8. What steps can leaders take to create an ideal workplace environment for engagement?