How to Be Accountable as a Legal Team Leader

As a manager, you already understand the value of accountability. Without a result to answer for, team members are often “adrift,” focusing their energies on the wrong priorities and producing substandard results.

Accountability is important for legal team leaders, as well – but you may not have someone watching you as closely as you watch your team. Here’s how to hold yourself accountable and teach your team to do the same.

Set SMART goals.

When you set a goal, how do you know you’ve achieved it?

Some goals are too vague to tell you whether they’ve been reached. “Get in shape.” “Do better work.” As a result, it’s nearly impossible to hold yourself accountable for reaching them.

To combat this problem, set goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Based. For instance, instead of saying, “I’ll be a better leader,” break down how to do that and set a timeline or deadline: “I will check in with my team via email every day at 4 p.m.”

Intention, not motivation.

The value of SMART goals is they focus your attention on intent, not motivation.

While “motivation” is a common managerial buzzword, studies show we do our best work not when we feel “motivated,” but when we set a specific intent, then work toward it. For instance, one study on exercise gave one group of participants motivational materials on exercise. The second group didn’t see these materials but was asked to complete this sentence: “Next week, I will exercise at [day/time] in [place] for [period of time].” A third control group got neither option.

A week later, about 35 percent of the control group had exercised. In the motivation group, the number was about the same.

The intention group? Ninety-one percent.

By holding themselves accountable, the participants had taken “motivation” out of the picture – and gotten better results.

Stay on track.

Once you set your goal and intention, it’s time to get to work.

Break down the steps required to get to the goal, starting at the end. For instance, if your goal is to email your team every day at 4 p.m., first write down “hit send.” Above this, write “type the email,” “open message box,” “check the time” and “tell staff this morning about the new plan.”

Break each SMART goal down into steps as small as you need to complete it. This will help you ensure you’re considering how much time the goal will take and what tools you’ll need to do it.

Get help when needed.

Finally, don’t assume just because you’re the leader, you only have yourself to rely on. Assistance from your own supervisors, from other legal team managers and from outside sources like your recruiting firm can also help you stay on track and improve your accountability and performance.

At Kent Legal, our recruiters can help you find great legal support team members who will grow into your organization’s leaders. Contact us today to learn more.

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