The Accountability Ladder has 8 rungs. Each rung is used to measure where you, an employee or team sits from an accountability standpoint.
The top four describe an awareness focused on issue at hand and toward the future. The bottom four describe a view that is focused on the past, pointing blame or avoiding discomfort in the present.
The Accountability Ladder can be used as a coaching tool to provide an effective way to look objectively at an issue and make some conscious choices about to handle it. The more individuals agree to operate in the top four rungs of the ladder the more successful an organization or team will become.
When communicating on a difficult issue with an employee or team member, it is always best to stick to stating the facts - facts are concrete and verifiable. It is best not to jump to conclusions, pass judgement or bring feelings into the situation.
Example of Feelings: "I've had it with your lack of communication and inability to meet deadlines."
Example of Facts: "On the last two implementations you have failed to communicate that you would miss key deliverable dates which lead to project delays and unhappy customers. We had a conversation about it after the first time where you agreed that it would not happen again".
Tips for dealing with difficult conversations:
- Refer specifically and only to the other person’s behavior, not their intentions
- Say what you need to say in a non-defensive way
- Plan your communication so you actually say what you want and get the message across
- Let them know the impact of their behavior on the project, team or organization
- Don't avoid dealing with a difficult situation
- Always deliver your message clearly and specifically
To use the tool effectively as a supervisor, manager or other type of leader, it is crucial to be explicit about expectations - what kind of performance will you stand and not stand for. Help those around you recognize when they are operating in the lower rungs of the Accountability Ladder and coach them appropriately.