Being Accountable When You Don’t Have Control#



  • Clarify your manager’s expectations: what, why, when, and who.

  • When approaching a colleage:

    • Share the requirements.

    • Ask for required steps, and estimates.

    • Ask what else is on their plate, and how this task fits within their priorities.

    • Share the stakes: communicate the importance, where it fits in with other initiatives, how it affects stakeholders, and the ramifications if you cannot deliver.

    • If the person is on another team, have their manager and yours present.

    • Set up a tracker. Document the plan, milestones, and deadlines. Configure automatic reminders instead of nagging personally.

    • Set up recurring meeting to share emerging challenges.

    • Express gratitude that the person is sharing their concerns rather than showing frustration.

    • If possible, remove the roadblocks, otherwise escalate them to the manager.

    • When escalating don’t handoff the accountability. Instead, ask for advice and coaching.

    • If the colleage falls behind on delivery, provide the feedback using the following structure:

      • Orient to the Situation: in the plan, you committed to having the code done on Tuesday.

      • Describe their Behavior: It’s Thursday, and you haven’t finished it yet.

      • Share the Impact: I’m getting worried that I’ll only have three days for quality testing.

      • Hand Over Accountability: What would it take to get this by the end of the day?

    • After delivery take time for reflection, build relationships, foster empathy and trust.


This framework spells out a common sense approach to being accountable without having control. Going through this check list ensures efficient collaboration and improves relationships, if done properly.