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Blog > How to Master Upward Accountability

How to Master Upward Accountability

Upward accountability is vital for the success of any organization. Here are some helpful tips on mastering upward accountability.
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Whether you are a leader or a subordinate in an organization, upward accountability improves the health of every workplace. How can you help create upward accountability in your organization? 

It’s a bit tricky and the consequences of delivering feedback poorly can be quite severe. If you show up the boss in front of others, for example, this behavior may prove to be a career-threatening mistake.

That said, a good leader will welcome feedback and accountability from any subordinate as long as it is respectful and does not impair their leadership abilities by undermining their authority. 

In fact, the best leaders ask for feedback, so creating a culture of consistent upward accountability helps your organization thrive. 

Tips for Giving Feedback to the Boss

While upward accountability may sound good in theory, as a subordinate, you’re probably thinking: I still would like to keep my job… 

If you’re a subordinate, you can start cultivating upward accountability by showing your boss this article. Demonstrate and provide evidence that accountability across the board helps increase success and happiness in the workplace. 

If you’re a leader, understanding that your employees want to be heard is the first step in improving the health of your business. In one set of data, 74% of surveyed employees said that they were more effective when they felt heard in the workplace. Make sure that your team knows that you welcome upward accountability.

So, let’s set the foundation for the practice of upward accountability by examining the appropriate times and places in which to deliver it.

3 Not Ideal Times and Places

  1. At Team Meetings:

It is generally not a good idea to provide your boss feedback during a company-wide or team meeting. 

If the opportunity for critique presents itself to you, it might be tempting to say something in the moment but offering feedback in front of your coworkers is usually a bad idea. It’s unlikely your boss will be able to listen and absorb the information at this time. 

Plus, if you embarrass them publicly, it may not bode well for you. Remember, your boss has feelings too. Take some time to craft your feedback rather than deliver it in the moment. 

  1. When There is New Information: 

It is generally not a good idea to provide feedback to the boss when your boss is explaining something new to you and your team members. 

You likely don’t know all the context and work that your boss may have put into whatever new idea or system they’re looking to implement, so you don’t want to challenge it too much in front of the whole team. 

It doesn’t mean you should agree with the idea if you really don’t like it. In fact, if they invite people to challenge the idea, then it might be okay for you to present some counterarguments. If they offer no invitation however, it’s better to have the conversation one-on-one after the meeting. 

  1. At Client / VIP Meetings:

It is typically not a good idea for a subordinate to provide feedback to their boss during a meeting with a client or VIP. 

It’s important to show a united front in these cases because you both have the same goal, even if you’re not yet totally aligned on how you will accomplish it. 

Take note of the audience you have at all times and opt for a time when no audience is present at all to have a conversation about feedback. 

3 Optimal Times and Places to Deliver Feedback

  1. One-on-One Meetings:

One of the main reasons for you to request a one-on-one meeting with your boss is to deliver feedback. If you are the boss, make it a part of the structure of the meeting to receive feedback from your subordinates. 

As a subordinate, it can be in your best interest to suggest mutual feedback during one-on-ones. Make sure you send this in an email ahead of time, so your supervisor is not caught off guard. 

As always, make sure you include both complimentary and constructive feedback during these sessions. The goal is to improve performance across the board, not to destroy someone’s ego. 

  1. Debrief Meetings:

While you should avoid providing feedback during a meeting with others, delivering feedback right after a meeting can be extremely helpful to your organization.

Start implementing debrief meeting feedback into your workplace culture. Since meetings can be an effective tool for improving the performance of your team, invest time in making them better. 

If you have delegated any part of the meeting to a subordinate, then they will likely want feedback on their performance. If you are a leader, deliver them this feedback to increase their confidence in leading meetings. 

When seeking feedback as a leader, ask for the opinions on the time, topic, and focus during the meeting. Ask for open-ended feedback on how the meeting could be made better. 

  1. Performance Reviews:

In performance reviews, organizations provide employees with an accurate look at how they’re doing. Your constructive feedback during these reviews is essential for helping your boss improve their leadership abilities. 

Organizational leaders should always send an outline for a performance review beforehand so that everyone can prepare themselves for it. As a subordinate, you can suggest a time for mutual feedback if it’s not already on the agenda. State that you want the review to be as productive as possible by encouraging open dialogue about team performance. 

Make sure you conduct and participate in performance reviews regularly, at least quarterly or bi-annually. Reviews give you the opportunity to talk about how to make the experience and outcome as effective as possible. 

The Bottom Line 

The best leaders ask for feedback, so creating a culture of consistent upward accountability helps your organization thrive. 

If you’re a leader of an organization, always keep in mind that your employees need to feel heard at work. They are the best resource you have, so take their ideas and feedback seriously. Show that you value their opinions. 

For more helpful tips, make sure you’ve downloaded The 10 Step Arootah Success Formula. You owe it to your team to provide the best resources you can to make their experience at work an amazing one. 

How is the upward accountability in your organization? What could you do to improve it? Let us know in the comments! 




Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as professional medical, psychological, legal, investment, financial, accounting, or tax advice. Arootah does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or suitability of its content for a particular purpose. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read in our newsletter, blog or anywhere else on our website.

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