Supervisors who hear the word “accountability” are likely to imagine themselves holding employees’ feet to the fire, demanding particular results and cracking down when goals aren’t met. In some law firms and legal departments, such a “tough love” approach would be a recipe for disaster.
But “accountability” doesn’t have to mean losing the respect and collegiality you’ve worked so hard to build among team members. Creating an environment of positive accountability empowers staff members to take responsibility for their own work and to feel pride in a job well done, improving productivity and morale in ways that, in turn, encourage long-term retention of your best talent.
Improve accountability and productivity together by:
Creating Motivation: Make the Goal Clear
It’s human nature to procrastinate on a task if we do not see the purpose for performing it. Work that has a clear purpose or goal stands out as “more important,” and so it gets finished, while tasks with unclear goals languish.
To improve motivation, make sure staff have a clear, compelling reason to complete each task. Explain how particular tasks fit into the operation of the firm or department as a whole. Be open to suggestions: if a staff member can recommend a more efficient way to complete a task effectively, consider giving it a try.
Following Up: Make the Results Clear
Tasks may also languish if staff members don’t see the consequences of failing to perform them. Instead of focusing on a task with no apparent results, staff will focus on tasks that produce known, desired results. Help staff focus by clarifying not only the benefits of completing a task, but the consequences of failing to complete it. Make sure these flow naturally from the task itself – it’s much easier to take a consequence seriously if it is known or inevitable than when it is an arbitrary “punishment” tacked on by a supervisor.
Teaching and Leading: Provide Structure
Often, tasks don’t get finished because the person in charge of them simply doesn’t know where to start. Creating clear step-by-step plans for handling tasks can help staff members stay focused. They can also make it easier for staff to step in and help cover for one another when illness, sudden emergencies, or leave require one person to be out of the office.
At Kent Legal, our recruiters specialize in connecting legal support talent to top law firms and legal departments throughout the Toronto area. Contact us today to learn more.