Module 2: Accountability and Stewardship

Module 2:
Accountability and
Roles & Responsibilities - Module 1 Review
Objectives of The Module
Understand what it means to be a manager or supervisor in your agency.
Understand your personal identity as a leader and how you can optimize your
strengths and improve upon your weaknesses.
Apply new skills in key leadership competencies for success (emotional
intelligence, values, and influence).
Define the differences between leadership and management and how both
skills are necessary to the agency’s success.
Large Group Discussion:
1. What is one behavior that is important for successful management? What is
one behavior that is important for a successful leader?
Overview of Module 2
A foundation for effective leadership is: accountability and stewardship. These
traits are the basis upon which all work is performed. They are reflected in your
attitude toward others and your integrity in making and keeping commitments.
They are reflected in how you hold yourself accountable for your own
responsibilities and differentiate between what you and your staff are each
accountable for.
To effectively manage people, managers and supervisors rely heavily on their
ability to informally influence inside the organization. Your willingness to be a
good steward – to be accountable to the agency’s mission and values, for the
resources of the organization or your department, and the well being of your
staff and the customers you serve – affects your influence with leadership and
your credibility with staff.
In Module 1: Roles and Expectation of Leaders, we explored the primary
objectives and expectations of your job as a manager and what it means to be a
leader. In this module, we will explore what it truly means to be accountable in
your role and what it means to help your employees be accountable for their part of
fulfilling the agency’s mission.
Objectives of This Module
By the end of this module, you will be able to:
Understand accountability and what it means to be accountable as a leader
in your agency.
Increase your level of accountability as a steward of public resources with
which you are entrusted.
Apply effective methods for holding yourself and others accountable for job
expectations and agreements.
Become a better steward of your time and energy and the public trust,
money, and property.
Understand how to become an effective steward of your time.
“Accountability can be seen as taking
action that’s consistent with our desired
actions. It is also the willingness, after the
fact, to answer for the results of one’s
behaviors and actions.”
- Mark Samuel
What is Accountability?
Accountability: A responsibility to account for and/or explain actions undertaken.
Public accountability is where an agency has to account to the electorate or the wider
public for a decision e.g. on policy or involving the expenditure of public funds.
– Department for International Development
Ask yourself: Did I complete each step of my agreement? If successful, celebrate
your achievement! If unsuccessful, avoid placing blame, take responsibility for fixing
the problem, and learn from the experience.
– Accountability That Works!
Accountability: The responsibility for implementing a process or procedure, for
justifying decisions made, and for results or outcomes produced.
– Evaluation Center, Western Michigan University
Individual Exercise
Create your own definition to share with others.
My definition of accountability is:
How Do You Know When You Are Being Accountable?
Accountability is a quality based on integrity. Accountability is the basis for trust.
How do you know when you are being accountable? The answer is found in your
awareness, attitude, agreements and actions – each of which has a part to play in the
cycle of accountability. The following chart outlines these four skills.
The Cycle of Accountability
The cycle of accountability requires us
to be:
Responsible for our self
Respectful of others
Reflective on the process
Four Competencies of Accountability
Not acknowledging what is
truly happening within
yourself or with others.
Accepting what IS really
happening with yourself or with
Making false or unrealistic
Being clear about what you
want in a situation.
Misplacing blame. Blaming
others for negative results.
Blaming systems and
Taking responsibility for the
results you get.
Reacting defensively in a
situation. Being a
Humbly recovering and
moving on when you get off
Knowing what is happening
inside you and around you.
Making clear and realistic
Walking your talk and
knowing the consequences
of your actions.
Staying open to learning.
Staying open to what others
have to say.
Small Group Discussion:
1. Think about the last time you disappointed someone. Where did the
accountability breakdown?
2. For each breakdown of accountability in the above example, what can you do to
address the obstacles/challenges?
Accountable Agreements
Accountability Begins With You
To encourage accountable behaviors from the employees you supervise, you have to
model what you expect from them. For example, if you reprimand or discipline an
employee for a performance issue and then you are always late to work, how can you
hold that employee accountable for expectations?
Accountability is a matter of integrity. Peter
Block (author of The Empowered Manager
and co-founder of the New School for
Managing) defines integrity as:
“Creating a social contract based on
partnership and empowerment is the difficult
emotional work of stewardship. This means
saying no to others’ wishes for protection and
relinquishing our need for control.”
- Peter Block
Telling the truth about what we see
Making only promises we will deliver
Admitting to and learning from our
Finding mutually beneficial
intersections between personal, team, and organizational interests.
We are not acting with integrity when we try to control something or someone in
inappropriate ways. We are not acting with integrity when we don’t use our influence
when it is needed. Leaders wrestle with these issues every day. Managers and
supervisors have to find a balance between decreasing their desire to control
others, while increasing their ability to influence others to get things done (all
amid pressures to improve results). Successful leaders focus their limited time and
energy where it can make the most impact and promote a culture of accountability that
fosters ongoing learning.
People are more willing to join and follow leaders who exude influence than those
who grasp at control. Leaders who understand where to invest themselves are more
able to accomplish their goals than those who do not and thus squander their
investments. Each day is chance to empower yourself rather than hold power over
Making Accountable Requests
One way to influence and motivate others to meet expectations is to ask for things, or
make requests, in a way that holds them accountable to you. As leaders, you need
your staff to see themselves as key players in meeting your department’s work
objectives. Asking for the right things in the right way can be a powerful tool for
influencing others to get things done together.
When making requests of others in your agency, you need to ask yourself:
What does making an accountable request mean in our context?
When I’m developing objectives and defining an employee’s assignment, am I
making an accountable request?
How do I exercise management and leadership in a situational way depending on
what our environment looks like and the work the employee is doing?
Steps to Making Accountable Requests
Assess the person and the
Is this the right person, time, place?
Define the result you want to
Do I know what I really want? Am I clear about my
intentions and outcomes? The benefits and costs?
Am I ready to make my request in a clear and honest
Ask for what you want.
Have I defined expectations and measurable
outcomes? Have I helped create conditions and
expectations for success? Are we prepared for nonperformance?
Invite a commitment.
Do we have clear agreements? Has my staff
engaged me in the agreements?
It is very difficult to find closure and resolution to a situation if there isn’t a clear
agreement. Good agreements provide direction when there is a dispute about
something. Good agreements also help to build trust.
Making agreements with ourselves and with others are the basis for
accountability because they make the connection between our intentions and our
Pair s Exer cise:
M ak ing Ac cou nta ble Re que st s
1. Decide on a request that you need to make of one of your staff members.
2. Together, use the steps for making accountable requests and practice making
the request.
3. Keep working through the process until you are sure you have arrived at a clear
accountable request.
4. Be prepared to debrief your discussion with the full group.
Dealing With People Who Aren’t Being Accountable
You can make requests, remind people of agreements, and create consequences, but
accountability is ultimately a personal choice we each make for ourselves every
moment of every day. A leader sets the tone for accountability by modeling it…by
demonstrating the behaviors that you want from others. Here are initial steps you can
take to set the tone of accountability:
Be accountable for yourself first. Look carefully at where the accountability
cycle broke down. What could you do differently?
Take charge with empathy. Create a sense of safety so you can understand the
person and situation and confront the issue.
Focus on the agreements. Be willing to be flexible with your results. Keep
bringing the person back to the unfulfilled agreements and the unmet needs.
Seek a motivating factor that is meaningful to the person. Then work with the
person to remove any obstacles to the motivation.
Invite the person either to renegotiate the agreement or to identify what
support is needed to fulfill the agreements.
Move the person toward the results and bring closure to the conversation.
Being Accountable Without Being Defensive
When something we’ve worked on has not turned out as we had expected, it can be
tempting to blame others—people, circumstances, etc. A key characteristic of
accountable leaders is their ability to take responsibility for results.
Feedback, whether direct or indirect, provides an excellent opportunity to learn about
our strategies, assumptions, habits, etc. and to create new options for how we think and
act. If we shirk our accountability, we miss that opportunity. It takes courage to stay out
of the blame/shame trap, to own up to our actions without being defensive, and to learn
from our experiences and mistakes.
“A steward is a person who is morally
responsible for the careful use of money,
time, talents, or other resources,
especially with respect to the principles or
needs of a community or group.”
Webster’s New World Dictionary
What is Stewardship?
Stewardship is the basis for trust and accountability, because it earns you a
reputation that makes people want to believe in you and what you have agreed to do.
When we lead from a focus of “service” versus “self-interest” our organization performs
To excel as a manager or supervisor here requires a high level of stewardship. Your
willingness to be accountable for the agency’s people and resources is a key contributor
to your credibility and influence. For example, think of the significant public resources
you are responsible for managing:
How much money do you issue from your office
just in SNAP benefits?
What budgetary resources are you responsible
for? In salaries? Facilities? Property?
How many people depend on your for the health,
safety, and prosperity of their family?
Leaders as Stewards of the Organization
““Stewardship is the
willingness to be
accountable for the well
being of the larger
organization by
operating in service
rather than in control of
those around us.”
Peter Block
Stewardship is built on the belief that one individual is holding something in trust for
another. Said differently, we are stewards of the people’s lives that work in our
organizations, businesses and corporations. Once embraced, these values become an
accountability platform for the behavior of leaders who then teach by example, daily.
There are four critical steps for leaders to be “stewards” of the organization.
1) Take Responsibility: Leaders must take responsibility for identifying stakeholders,
their needs, and the cultural elements that are required so employees can deliver on
expectations. As stewards, leaders set the tone for various teams and people to work
together. It must be clear to them what cultural norms will ensure success.
2) Establish Discipline: Leaders need to define the set of regular disciplines around
leadership values that demonstrate to the organization commitment to those values.
Leaders must together define the rhythms and routines that solidify their commitment.
3) Build Accountability: Leaders must hold each other accountable to the appropriate
behaviors. Values are demonstrated in the conduct of daily business. This reinforces
the culture and builds “esprit de corps” - solidarity, pride, devotion and respect - within
the entire organization.
4) Manage Your Time: Your time is a resource over which you have responsibility.
Using time efficiently and prioritizing effectively are key skills for every leader to master.
How Do Ethics Support Stewardship?
As a leader in North Carolina state government, you are expected to accept the
responsibility that comes with being a public servant. You are charged with maintaining
the public trust and assuring that business is being conducted honestly. In your agency,
you are responsible for determining eligibility for public benefits – no one is watching
over your shoulder and scrutinizing your work minute by minute.
Regardless of your skills as a leader and manager,
when you accept a supervisory position you assume
liability if you fail to follow agency personnel and
employment opportunity policies and guidelines.
Your actions can result in legal or financial liability
for the agency as a whole.
“Practiced consistently,
self-responsibility implies
one’s willingness to be
accountable for the
values and ideals by
which one conducts
one’s life.”
Ethics involves thinking about morals and conduct,
Nathaniel Branden
and making judgments about what we believe is
right and what we believe is wrong. In public service,
ethics goes beyond thought and talk and evolves into action and performance. Ethics
implies the willingness of supervisors and managers to accept the consequences of
their own actions.
Ethical managers bring to the workplace their own ethics and put them into action
through informed, systematic reasoning, and ethics-based action.
You have a special role to play in ethical conduct as a leader in your agency. The
information you deal with is sensitive and confidential. Customers are often stressed
and on the edge. The lives and wellbeing of the clients you serve depend upon your
ability to model and enforce standards of ethical conduct.
Stewardship of a Most Valuable Resource: Your Time
Who ever has enough time? So much to do, so little time in which to do it. Heavy
workloads to manage in your agency’s local offices. Finite resources and infinite needs.
“I’m late for a very important meeting.” “I have too many priorities!” Sound familiar? All
of us have more to do than we can get to. And, the higher up you go in the
organization, the more you have to do and the less time you have to do it.
To make sure your agency can meet its goals and to be effective in your role as a
leader, you have to be able to set priorities and manage your time well.
Methods for Effective Stewardship of Your Time
Effective stewardship of your time is about making changes to the way you
spend your time so you can improve your productivity and effectiveness.
Look at a specific day in your Outlook Calendar or SmartPhone, which is packed
with activities from 7am to 9pm and you don’t know what to do with it. To remedy the
packed schedule you eliminate a few
events and prioritize others. In this case,
you haven’t really managed anything –
“Set priorities. A major
you’ve just rearranged it. All the problems
and frustrations of the day’s activities are
part of successful living is
still there, and at the end of the day you’re
in the ability to put first
still frazzled and frustrated. So how do
things first. Indeed, the
you actually manage your time?
Step 1: Analyze Where You
Spend Your Time
reason most major goals
are not achieved is that we
spend our time doing
second things.”
Use the method below to record your daily
—Steven Covey
activities and how much time you spend on
them for seven days. Assign one of Covey’s
quadrants (see step 2) to each task. It you
have a detailed calendar, use it to look at your time for any recent seven-day period. (A
full worksheet is provided on page 22 in Appendix A.)
Activity/Task Priority
Time Spent in
Now you have the data you need to make changes to the way you spend your time at
work. Review the list. Are there any surprises? Are you spending too much time on
some things and not enough on others?
For example, are you spending too much time putting out fires? Then make changes to
prevent or defer these constant crises. Clean up or reorganize your desk so you can
find the files you need easily, and establish a routine of putting the files you need for the
next day out on your desk before you leave for the day.
What changes do you need to make? To determine what changes might be needed,
consider the following questions and then write down a list of actions you will take. (See
Tips for Effective Time Management on page 23 in Appendix A for more ideas.)
Are there personal habits or behaviors that are contributing
to poor time management?
Are you spending time on distractions and interruptions?
Are you unable to get to your priorities?
Are there tasks you can do more efficiently?
Are there any tasks you can eliminate?
Is there anything you can delegate?
Are there things that can be accomplished better
through shared responsibility?
Step 2: Define Your Priorities
All time management begins with planning. To plan, we have to set aside the myth
that we can do it all and recognize that everything is not equally important.
Covey’s Quadrants
Quadrant 1:
Quadrant 2:
Urgent and Important
Important but not urgent
Fire Fighting
Quadrant 3:
Quadrant 4:
Urgent but not Important
Not urgent, not important
Time Wasting
Stephen Covey’s “Four Quadrants,” is an effective tool for prioritizing your tasks. If you
really study the quadrants and think about what might go in each one, it becomes clear
that Quadrant 2 is where you will spend the greatest amount of your time. Here are
some examples of the kinds of things you could place in the quadrants:
Quadrant 1: Crises, pressing problems and deadline-driven projects, meetings and
Quadrant 2: Planning, values clarification, relationship building, empowerment,
Quadrant 3: Interruptions, some phone calls and emails, some reports, some meetings.
Quadrant 4: Trivia, busywork, junk mail, some phone calls.
Individual Exercise:
Take a few moments and think about your priorities as a
supervisor or manager. Use the table below to organize your priorities. (Note: Teambased approach and exercise can be found on pages 25-26 in Appendix A)
Quadrant 1:
Urgent and Important
Quadrant 2:
Important but not urgent
Quadrant 3:
Urgent but not Important
Quadrant 4:
Not urgent, not important
Fire Fighting
Time Wasting
Group Discussion:
What did you discover about your priorities? Did anything surprise you?
Step 3: Plan Each Day
Making lists is still one of the best ways to manage your time. At the end of each day,
write a “to do” list for the following day. Put the most important things at the top. When
you come in the next day, review the list and make sure things are in the correct order
of priority.
Do the same thing at the beginning of each week and each month. Re-order things on
your list as priorities change. Always keep a schedule or calendar of your daily
activities to minimize conflicts and last-minute rushes.
Step 4: Learn to Say “Yes” and “No”
Consider your goals, schedule and highest priorities before agreeing to take on
additional work. Many times the problem is not that we have too much to do, but that
other people have too much they think we
should do. There may be times when you need
to say “no” to additional projects that are
“Time is the coin of your
beyond the responsibilities and tasks you must
complete as part of your defined job function.
life. It is the only coin you
Often, peers or direct reports may be coming to
you for help in completing casework or other
tasks that are assigned to them. Try to coach
them instead of taking on the work. Give
them confidence they can complete the
assignment and help link them up with helpful
resources to get it done on their own. Teach
them to search the policy manual rather
have, and only you can
determine how it will be
spent. Be careful lest you
let other people spend it
for you.”
— Carl Sandberg
than just answering their question. It may take a few more minutes this time, but it
will reduce the number of times they need to come to you in the future.
Sometimes we say “maybe” or “I might be able to do that,” when we should really say
“no.” Then when we don’t do the thing we said “maybe” to, the person who asked us is
hurt, disappointed or annoyed. This can create pressure and guilty feelings internally,
which distracts our concentration and prevents us from being focused. That eats time!
Make it a rule not to say “maybe” when you’re asked to commit to something.
Learn to make quick decisions and say a firm “yes” or “no” instead.
Step 5: Delegate
Are you doing things that direct reports should actually be doing? If the answer is “yes,”
you need to ask yourself why. Review the material on delegation in Module 3: Building
Effective Relationships to help you delegate more. Are there advanced or tenured
members of your team that are looking for
growth and development? Search your list of
tasks and responsibilities for something you
“Time is really the only
can delegate that will fit with the person’s
capital that any human being
level of authority and allows them the
has, and the only thing he
opportunity to learn and stretch. Not only
can’t afford to lose.”
does this lighten your load, you are helping
your staff to be accountable for the work that
— Thomas Edison
is theirs and to develop new competencies
that will support their growth and mobility
within the organization.
Step 6: “Unplug”
One of the modern myths of today’s working world is that you have to be “reachable”
and “connected” at all times. We don’t, and in fact there are times when it’s important or
useful to be unreachable to everyone or everything except the person or task
immediately in front of us. Tasks that require focused, critical thinking or emotional
involvement will take far longer to complete if we allow interruptions.
Make yourself the manager of your technology rather than being managed by it. Don’t
read every piece of email as it comes in. Instead, set aside several short bursts of
time throughout the day to focus on email and protect the remaining larger
chunks of time for other tasks, such as planning for quarterly staff conferences and
unit meetings.
Keep in mind that too much constant activity and stress can derail your best attempts to
get organized. When you take a break, don’t think about, talk about, or do any work.
Get up and out of your workspace. Take a walk. Stretch.
Group Discussion:
What do we most need to do to become better
stewards of our time? Reflect on what you can do to better use your time.
What is one action you can take back with you to the office to improve?
Write it down.
Appendix A
Post Workshop Lessons and Peer Learning
Analyze Where You Spend Your Time
Activity/Task Priority
Time Spent in
Tips for Effective Time Management
Avoid perfectionism – Don’t aim to do something perfectly if it ties up too much
time and paralyzes you from progress. Do things with excellence and avoid the
extreme of perfectionism.
Question everything – Don’t allow any “sacred cows” to keep you from
eliminating items from your calendar and “to do" lists. If it doesn’t work, either get
rid of it, or find a less time consuming and more efficient method or approach to
accomplishing it.
Don’t rush – Take the time to do a quality job. Working right the first time may
take more time up front, but errors usually result in time spent making
corrections, which takes more time overall.
Welcome tension – Stressing out about something doesn’t get you any closer to
completing your goal. Have the understanding that tension is part of life. Tension,
if not reduced to worrying, can actually improve your focus and enable you to
complete the job more effectively.
Avoid clutter – Clutter will just get in the
way of what you are doing. Try not to
waste time in searching for things. Have a
place for everything and everything in its
“We must use time as a
tool, not as a couch.”
—John F. Kennedy
Avoid procrastination – Don’t just do
what is fun first. Get what needs to be
done first, done first!
Control interruptions and distractions – Minimize the amount of time that
people take you away from your main objective.
Learn to read faster and more selectively – Reading quickly as well as
understanding what to read will give you more time to accomplish your priorities.
Break large, time-consuming tasks into smaller tasks – Work on them a few
minutes at a time until you get them done.
Practice the 10-minute rule – Work on a dreaded task for 10 minutes each day.
Once you get started, you may find you can finish it.
Get plenty of sleep, have a healthy diet, and exercise regularly – A healthy
lifestyle can improve your focus and concentration, which will help improve your
efficiency so you can complete more work in less time.
Tips for Setting Priorities
Be clear about your goals and objectives. What exactly do you need to
accomplish? Use your unit meetings to clarify the mission-critical things that must
happen and gain consensus on how priorities will be accomplished.
Get input from others. When faced with multiple priorities, pass them by a few
others around you for their opinion. You don’t have to do what they say but
having other perspectives is always better than having only your opinion.
Remember that setting and operating on priorities isn’t always reflective.
You may not always have time for
ruminating. Many of life’s choices have to
be made on the spot, without all of the data.
“We realize our dilemma
Nobody is ever right all of the time under
goes deeper than shortage
that kind of pressure. Wait as long as you
of time. It is basically a
can and gather all the information you can
problem of priorities. We
during that period, then shoot your best
confess we have left
Be careful not to be guided by just what
you like and what you don’t like. That
way of selecting priorities will probably not
be successful over time. Use data, intuition,
and even feelings, but not feelings alone.
When you are stuck, write down the pros
and cons of each option. Check what
affect each alternative course of action
would have both in the short and long term. Is one resource more efficient than
the other? Is one more apt to be more successful than the other? Think about the
interaction of both short and long-term priorities. Sometimes what you do today
will hurt you or the organization downstream. When making either a short-term or
long-term choice, stop for second and ask what effect this might have.
Be time sensitive. Taking time to plan and set priorities actually frees up more
time later than just diving into things hoping that you can get it done on time.
Be careful of “decision avoidance.” Avoiding making choices actually makes
life more difficult. You also miss opportunities. Don’t avoid or procrastinate
making hard choices about priorities. You can pay the price now or pay a bigger
price tomorrow.
undone those things that
we ought to have done and
we do those things we
ought not to have done.”
— Charles E. Hummel
Setting Team Priorities
Setting team priorities is a little different than setting personal priorities. One premise is
the same: you must prioritize the team’s projects to make sure you’re working on what’s
truly important, instead of getting caught up in minor things.
Let’s look at a different “Four Quadrants” model as a method for group prioritization.
Things in the top left are "No-Brainers." These projects/activities are clear priorities.
Things in the bottom right are potentially for the recycle bin, because they are of the
least value. Things in the bottom left are quite straightforward to deliver but not the
most important. Consider ways to make them more valuable, i.e. push them up on the
grid. Of course you shouldn't do this artificially, or it's counter-productive. Typically
things in the top right quadrant are more strategic developments. Although they're
over to the right, if you never start them you'll certainly never deliver them.
Team Prioritization Exercise
Instructions: Have your team write their projects in bold print on a post-it note, and
paste them in the proper quadrant on a large wall chart. Now that we can see all of our
projects, which ones are most supportive of the agency’s mission and objectives?
Which, if any, are out of alignment with where we’re going? What can we do about the
misalignment? What will we do if there are conflicts between priorities?
Appendix B
Post Workshop Evaluation
Leadership Module 2: Accountability and Stewardship
Please read the following statements and rate how strongly you agree or disagree by circling
the appropriate word or phrase on the scale.
1. I understand accountability and what it means to be accountable as a leader in your
Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree
2. I can increase my accountability for all that I am responsible for.
Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree
3. I can apply methods for holding myself and others accountable for job expectations,
agreements and outcomes.
Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree
4. I know how to be a more effective steward of time and energy and the public trust,
money, and property.
Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree
5. I can apply methods for setting priorities and more effectively managing my time.
Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree
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