It's very rare in today's corporate environment to work in a silo. Teamwork is the name of the game and cross-functional work groups are commonplace.

But all too often I hear complaints or frustration from people working in these groups around accountability, responsibility, and getting things done. Most often I hear something to the effect of, "But how can I hold people accountable if they don't report to me?" This always surprises me because it implies that just because someone reports to you, they magically have some greater sense of accountability. Maybe, but often times not.

If you feel like you're constantly herding cats and not getting what you need from people, the following tips are for you.

What's the Motivation?

If you feel like you have to constantly nag people and follow up to ensure they get their tasks or projects done, take a moment to think about their perspective.

  • What is their role in the organization, and what is their motivation?
  • Are they fairly new or in a more junior position?
  • Are they looking to prove themselves and move up the ladder or have they been around the block, hold a comfortable position, and are just looking to come in and accrue their vacation time and get a paycheck?
  • Or do they stand somewhere in the middle?

Understanding this doesn't change anything but can provide you with some awareness about how you might motivate someone to get the job done. For instance, a newbie might use it as an opportunity to earn some stripes (or prove themselves), and a long timer may see it as opportunity to work on something new in order to break up the routine.

Deadlines are Non-Negotiable.

Deadlines, drop-dead dates, etc. are called these things for a reason. You must do them. They aren't called "do it when you want to's", right?

But you can't just go around throwing down deadlines and expect everyone to drop everything they're doing to meet them.

You've got to get people to agree to that date. Get a commitment. And you don't have to rule with an iron fist to get it done. If you have frequent communication and check-ins along the way for the project, you give folks the opportunity to bring up any delays, risks, or obstacles. Then you can address them head-on and hopefully help the person move forward. By being there to help people get the job done and removing obstacles (not doing the job for them), you'll also motivate them to see the task or project through to completion.

Everyone Contributes.

At my email marketing company, VerticalResponse, we've all got a job to do in order to deliver an awesome product and experience for our customers. No matter what someone's role or title, everyone is an individual contributor in some way, so there's no one just throwing down to-dos and not having their own to deliver on. When everyone is rolling up their sleeves, side-by-side and working together, you don't get the resentment factor, and the "how would you know" attitude, since managers, directors, VPs, and even myself are all working hand-in-hand. And we have an expectation of each other to get it done. If you don't, your peers will be as tough on you, if not tougher, than your supervisor.

How do you motivate teams to get the job done even when they don't report to you? Share your tactics in the comments.

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