Recently I had a conversation with a leader who challenged my perception on the difference between employee accountability and micro-managing. As a leader, often we need to walk the line between delegating work and getting caught in the weeds because of our personal challenges with giving up power and control.

My paradigm has been that if I delegate work, there is an assumption that it’s being done if I asked someone verbally to confirm they completed a task. I take them at their word. However, this approach has not always been successful for me because at times I’m given a verbal confirmation and because I don’t verify, later it’s determined the task wasn’t done, or not done to standards.

My excuse has been, “I’m too busy to have to micro-manage staff and double check all their work.”

This approach is a lazy excuse for not prioritizing accountability. This required a paradigm shift on my part. When staff are held accountable it is not micro-managing their tasks, it’s verifying tasks were completed to standard and policies and procedures were followed. That’s part of a leader’s responsibility. Micro-managing would be telling the employee exactly what to do, how to do it, and looking over their shoulder while they do it.

An expression comes to mind in the world of quality improvement, “trust but verify”. This is a moto that I need to embrace if I’m going to shift my paradigm.

Here is a list of questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are creating a culture of accountability with your employees:

  • Do you trust your employees? If not, is it due to a lack of trust in their character or competence to get the job done?
  • When tasks are delegated or assigned, are they documented in a central location with who will do it, what they will do, and when they will get it done by (WWW)?
  • Do you ask them to report on the status of WWW items (task) that have come to the due date?
  • Do you ask to see the final work product or take them at their word that it’s been done?
  • Do you hold them accountable to following policy and procedures?
  • Do you encourage your team to call out peer behaviors that impact the team’s ability to achieve results?
  • Do you have a cadence of reporting task updates in your team huddle or meetings?
  • Do you openly talk about why team members might be stuck in completing a task so the team can support each other in reaching deadlines and goals?

It’s important to foster a team culture of trust, but it’s also important as a leader to verify staff are doing the functions of their role in an accurate and timely manner.  This isn’t micro-management.  For more blogs, check out our website

Keyne Petkovic

Coach –