As a team leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure the work gets done. But it can be tough to find the right balance of supporting your team members while also holding them accountable for their performance.

Plus, you need to figure out how to have performance conversations without offending your team, feeling like you’re micromanaging them or addressing an issue too late to save the situation.

So how can you keep your team members on track more easily and with less stress?

Hold your team accountable by using “good contracting up front”

This strategy helped me go from a worrisome micromanager to a strategic leader who empowers her team. And it can work for you too.

There are three parts to it and they get simpler as you go through them.

  1. Agree on expectations
  2. Check for understanding
  3. Ask the single most important accountability question

Let's start with the foundation of “good contracting up front”.

First, agree on expectations, standards, and deadlines at the start of the project

Agreeing on these key points is a crucial first step to get your team on the same page so you’re pulling in the same direction on the same timeline.

How you agree on these key points can be done in many ways. You can present this information to your team, ask for their input, or ideally use a mix of both.

Whatever method you choose, by the end of the conversation you and your team should be clear on the answers to these questions:

  • What does “good” look like for this project?
  • What resources are needed to get to the finished product?
  • What tasks will each person be doing, by when, and to what standard?
  • How will we make sure deadlines are met?

Using good contracting up front makes it easier for you to hold people accountable throughout the project because everyone has agreed on the key parameters. Your team members can even hold each other accountable when they’re all part of the agreement.

When your team is clear on what’s in the “contract”, they can more easily execute on their work and you’ll have peace of mind that the project is being handled.

Next, be sure to check for understanding

What you say and what someone else hears can be two different things. That’s why it’s essential to ask your team to share back their understanding of what’s being agreed. Especially if you’ve done most of the talking to assign the project and present the key expectations.

Part of being an excellent communicator means being a good listener, so make sure you pause afterwards to give people a chance to ask any clarifying questions as well.

Taking a few extra minutes up front to make sure everyone is clear can save hours or even days later on.

Finally, make sure to ask the single most important question for accountability

“Do you have everything you need to be successful [with project X]?”

Again, here is when you need to pause and be patient. If you’ve created an environment where people feel safe to be honest, they will tell you what they need, whether that’s time, staffing, connections, or anything else that would keep them from getting the job done.

And when the answer is “Yes, I have everything I need to be successful” the contract is set and you’re equipped to hold each other accountable.

Just don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s too late for good contracting

The best time to do good contracting is at the start of the project. But the second-best time is now.

If your project is already underway, you can still meet with your team and ask, “By the way, I didn’t ask you before, but do you have everything you need to be successful?” It’s not too late to start the conversation, get clear on expectations and set the team up to succeed.

Holding team members accountable doesn’t have to feel confrontational

“Good contracting” is a great way to build trust with your team, lessen your stress as a manager and achieve a balance between support and accountability.

So when it comes to holding your team accountable, remember to use “good contracting upfront”:

  • Agree expectations at the start by getting clear on the four key parameters.
  • Check for understanding and give people a chance to ask clarifying questions.
  • Ask the most important accountability question and once the answer is “yes”, you can hold them accountable.

So how will you use good contracting up front to hold your team accountable?

Leave a comment and let me know.

Recommended Resource

How to Build a High Performing Team

Holding your team accountable is one step to being a great team leader. To take your leadership to the next level, getting your team to deliver outstanding results comes from understanding how to get the best from each team member.

In our upcoming Career Mastery Talk, David Burkus shares his insights on how to build and lead a high performing team and unlock a higher level of performance.

Discover practical advice to engage and motivate your team members on a daily basis to create a highly cohesive and successful group.

  • The key areas to focus on to unlock higher team performance
  • Why having mediocre performers can benefit the team
  • Simple questions to bring team members closer together
  • Why team members underperform and how to raise their performance
  • What most people and teams are motivated by (it’s probably not what you think)
  • How to balance competing and cooperating among team members
  • How to respond when your team disagrees with you publicly

And if you’re coming into an existing team or building a new one, you’ll discover:

  • The most important thing to do first as the new leader of an existing team
  • The “weird” and counterintuitive advice for building a new team
  • The assessment tools to avoid for team-based hiring and what to use instead
  • And much more

This new Career Mastery Talk is coming soon on Tuesday, October 31.

Join Career Mastery today to start building a high performing team