Note: This is post 3 of 7 in this series in which we’re exploring social accountability. We’ve already established that there are two types of accountability, performance and social: performance accountability is driven by systems and assigning credit, while social accountability is rooted in human investment.

Leaders often avoid social accountability––it’s time consuming and people-focused. But those who commit to building social accountability in tandem with performance accountability will achieve extraordinary results.

We’ve looked at the first step to creating social accountability: forming clear expectations. Step two is communicating those expectations and then aligning your organization to them.

In this post, we’re looking at the first half of this important phase: communication. There are three simple but critical steps to conveying expectations to your team:

  1. Offer a compelling why.

People crave connection. If you can show your team how your expectations support both individual contributors and the vision you all share, your “why” can become an idea worth connecting to in a personal way––and that leads to better work and better buy-in.

Here are six things to consider when crafting your “why”:

  • Tailor your “why” to your specific audience. Consider the crowd you’re addressing and personalize your message.
  • Make your “why” short, to the point, and clear. Don’t get bogged down in minutia or feel like you have to explain too much all at once. Keep it simple: share the heart of your “why,” not all of the veins and arteries.
  • Be candid. If you’re honest with people, they’ll connect with you and your “why.” No one wants to feel as though they’re just being fed a company line.
  • Make it a dialogue, not a monologue. Encourage people to ask questions and comment on the expectations. Let them know you want the expectations to be totally clear and that if they have a clarifying question, chances are they’d help everyone in the room by asking it. Say things like, “I don’t want you to accept accountability for this expectation until you fully understand what I’m asking and are confident that you have everything you need to deliver, including time, skills, capabilities, resources, decision authority, and support.”
  • Create the “hook.” A hook will capture people’s attention by clearly showing how fulfilling your expectation will benefit both the team and individuals.
  • Put your “why” in strategic context. How does your “why” support the big picture and advance an inspiring vision for the future?
  1. Articulate your expectations. After you’ve explained why your expectations matter, you will have hopefully earned some early buy-in from your team. With that buy-in serving as a supportive foundation, it’s time to explain what your expectations actually are––or the “what.”

Too often, we jump right into the “what” and skip the “why.” Don’t make that mistake. When you address “why” first, people are usually excited and want to know what it is they need to do. When you address “what” first, people often resist and wonder why.

This second step illustrates why the very first step in creating social accountability––forming clear expectations––is so important. If you’ve done a good job there, talking to your team about what you expect should be pretty simple. If it isn’t, you probably need to revisit the expectations you’ve tried to form and work through that initial process again.

As you reveal the “what,” ask questions. Say, “Is what I’m asking you to deliver crystal clear?” or “What can I clarify for you?” The only way to confirm that you’re understood is to give your team a chance to speak up.

  1. Negotiate deadlines. You and your team need to agree when pieces of the project will be delivered. These “by when” dates and times need to be specific: saying “as soon as possible” is not as effective as “no later than 5 p.m. on Thursday.” As the leader, remember to share the reasons why you need the pieces by a certain time. Such transparency helps reinforce the idea that the entire team is in it together.

If you’re trying to communicate expectations to your team in the face of an evolving industry or major internal changes, ask me about All-In Events. All-In Events were designed to facilitate these watershed moments and to accomplish what typically takes years in a matter of days.

Next, we’ll discuss the second phase of step two in creating social accountability: reaching alignment. Are you All-In?