Career

How Do You Handle Accountability at Work?

Leadership coach Chris Hallberg on how lessons he learned in the military can make you more accountable at work.

When it comes to working in the meetings industry, we know you have found a lot to love about your career. But when it comes to the day-to-day challenges you face on the job, how do you handle accountability?

In the recently released book The Business Sergeant’s Field Manual: Military Grade Business Execution Without the Yelling and Push-ups, Chris Hallberg, leadership and management coach known as the “Business Sergeant,” uses his experience in the National Guard and in law enforcement to help individuals become better business leaders. And a large aspect of strong leadership, he says, is enforcing accountability.

Chris Hallberg

“It’s as true in the military as it is in business: You’re only as strong as your weakest link,” Hallberg writes. “Once you get everyone to see the negative results of a lack of accountability, once you paint a vivid picture of the pain it causes and show how easily it can be avoided with some common goals and a little community policing, everyone should come on board.”

Meeting planning involves many moving parts, so accountability is key. Here are a few lessons Hallberg learned in the military to keep yourself, and those around you, accountable on the job.

1. Peers hold peers accountable. “A great example of accountability in the military is what we call ‘foxhole trust,’” Hallberg writes. “I’m not going to fall asleep during my watch, because I want you to be safe and get some rest, and I expect you to watch my back when I’m asleep.” Hallberg says leaders must have the expectation that all employees want to keep the bar raised as high as possible, and encourage a culture where peers feel comfortable having open, honest conversations with each other about difficult topics.

2. Have clear standards and consequences for poor performance. “Lots of talk and no action always equals much lower levels of accountability,” Hallberg notes, “because the only way for us to execute on a regular basis is to be accountable to each other.” Hallberg suggests creating an operating system that gives order to a project’s priorities, how you and team members are going to work on those priorities, and what “done” looks like.

3. Don’t alienate the A players. If a team has created a culture of accountability, dealing with just one employee who lacks that responsibility will be “demotivating to your A players,” Hallberg explains. “It puts your A players in a difficult spot, and it might even make them less accountable if they start asking, ‘Why should I even try?’” It is the job of a Business Sergeant, Hallberg writes, to stand up to the weakest links in the chain in order to not let your top employees down. “Your job as a great leader is to spark growth in your team and keep challenging and developing them at all times,” Hallberg writes.

Casey Gale