Nobody likes a micromanager. But when someone on your team isn’t delivering, it can be hard not to slip into bad habits.
Management Coach Jonathan Raymond has developed a communication framework — The Accountability Dial — which you can use to decide how to hold your team accountable but avoid sliding into “micromanager” territory.
The five levels to help increase accountability are:
- The Mention
- The Invitation
- The Conversation
- The Boundary
- The Limit
Let’s get into the details of the dial in action…
1️⃣ The Mention
Let’s say your team has daily standups that help keep visibility high to minimize bottlenecks, and provided needed support.
You notice that your team member, Anna, is not in the call and is unreachable. It’s not a big deal, and it’s the first time it happened — so you’re checking in to make sure everything’s alright and to give her the opportunity to take accountability.
For this, you’d use The Mention.
The Mention is a casual check-in. You’d say something like:
“Hey Anna, you missed our Zoom call standup this morning, is everything okay?”
It’s been a few days in a row that Anna’s not showing up for standups. She mentioned once that there was a conflict with a personal matter, but it’s unclear why she’s been missing so many team meetings. It’s becoming a pattern and you’re getting concerned.
For this, you’d use The Invitation to bring awareness to the problem.
The Invitation is a quick, private chat. This time, you’d be a little more serious:
“Anna, we’re missing your presence on our team calls. Could you help me understand why you haven’t been joining recently?
Not only has Anna been missing standups, but it’s starting to have a ripple effect on the team’s productivity. Mornings are less efficient because you spend your time chasing down Anna on where she’s at in her projects so that your other team members can move forward with their work.
For this, you’d use The Conversation — it’s urgent and you need to clearly state that it’s causing problems.
The Conversation has a more serious tone- this time, you’re expressing urgency about the issue:
“Anna, your absence from important meetings is starting to affect the team — the touchpoints your missing cause bottlenecks and miscommunications. I’m getting concerned — is something going on that’s making it difficult for you to join? Can I help in any way?
Your frustration levels are starting to get really high — the feedback your giving just won’t stick. At this point, there’s not a single person on the team who’s not irritated with Anna. Standups start with snarky comments about her absence, and while she’s still delivering her work loosely behind the scenes, the environment her actions have created are causing unnecessary conflict.
For this, you’d use The Boundary, and state the consequences of not following through.
The Boundary is a warning conversation. You’re going to lay out consequences:
“We’ve talked about how important it is for you to join our calls. It’s setting a double standard for the team because everyone else has to attend and be transparent about their work. If we’re not able to resolve this, I’m concerned this dynamic won’t work out. Can you make a commitment to attend our next call?”
While it’s rare to get here, you’re at a point where you’re seriously considering the future of your relationship with Anna. She showed up to one or two standups to save face, but has relapsed back into old habits. Anna is blatantly not improving, and may not even seem to be trying when you really look at things.
For this, you’d use The Limit — it’s the last resort chat, and if things don’t improve within 2 weeks, you’ll plan to part ways.
The Limit is a way of offering one last chance for improvement:
‘Anna, we’ve talked about this multiple times. We’ve been as flexible and supportive as we can, but your absence from our standup calls is causing real friction for the team and it’s not fair to them. If you don’t attend our team calls from now on, I’ll have to reassess whether this relationship is working.”
The hidden zombie
There are several points in this process that you may reveal the core issue behind the behavior. Perhaps Anna has personal issues keeping her up very late at night and making it hard for her to have the meeting first thing in the morning. Maybe Anna feels uncomfortable with a coworker and is avoiding all contact with them at the moment.
The magic of the dial is that it gives several opportunities to provide support for your team members. But that also means you need to have established spaces and practices for vulnerability. And then you’ll need to be prepared to fight off the hidden zombie together.
If you’re interested in learning more tactics for building trust on your team you can check out Bunch’s AI Leadership coach — it’s a free resource packed with 2-minute actionable tips to help you find practical solutions for problems like these.