A manager is someone accountable for the results of others… In my earlier post I asked this question: “If your manager is accountable for your results, then for what are you accountable?” My answer is simply , “You are responsible for doing your best.” The role of manager must be framed within this context. They have direct reports and are accountable for achieving results through a coordinated group of assigned activities given to those direct reports. Sometimes managers are told they are accountable for some responsibility, but they don’t have authority commensurate with that accountability. If this is true, then a manager can not be truly accountable for his/her results or the results of his/her direct reports. Accountability and authority must always be equal for a manager to be effective. Let me explain further.

In order for a manager to be accountable for the results of others he/she must have at least these four minimum authorities:

1. Veto Power in selecting their direct reports. While candidates can be screened and offered to the manager from a variety of  people or processes, the manager must be free to veto any candidate with a reasonable explanation. (I should note that if a manager exhibits biases or other unreasonable tendencies, then the manager’s manager is accountable for dealing with the manager’s behavior.) If a manager does not have authority in the hiring decision, then someone other than the manager has undercut the needed relationship between the manager and direct report. A manager’s team must know that the manager selected them and is committed to their success.

2. Only the manager has authority to Assign Tasks to his/her direct report. This is an often broken rule which has undermined accountability in many organizations. Not even the manager’s manager can assign a task to the direct report(s). How can a manager be effective if he/she does not know what their direct reports are working? How does a manager set priorities if he/she does not have all the assignments? What happens to the manager-direct report relationship if others do not respect this minimum authority?

3. Only the manager Reviews, Recognizes, and Rewards the work of their direct reports. Again the reason for this rule comes back to the manager is accountable for the results of his/her direct reports. In special circumstances, such as when a direct report is temporarily assigned to a project team with a project leader, then that project leader should have all four authorities but only as it relates to that specific project. The manager must always do the overall reviews and decide recognition and rewards within the calibration guidelines of the organization. This requirement allows the manager-direct report relationship to strengthen as a mutually trusting relationship around achievement of their common mission within the organization.

4. The manager has the authority to Initiate Removal from the manager’s direct reporting team. While there may be others involved and the existence of fairness processes from Human Resources, the manager can use these processes and procedures to deselect members of his/her team. Once again this authority is needed to maintain the proper relationship between the manager and their direct reports. Without this authority how can a manager be held to account for inferior results for non-capable team members, or team members who are unwilling to do their best at work. With at least these four authorities a manager can be accountable for the results of his/her direct reports and expected to achieve expectations.

These four authorities are key to a high performance organization. Dr Elliott Jaques, in his book Requisite Organization, provides more details and explanations. I remember these authorities through the simple acronym VARI.

V- Veto Power

A- Assign Tasks

R- Review, Recognize, Reward

I- Initiate Removal

Without VARI a manager cannot be truly accountable for the work of others. However when a manager chooses his/her team members, assigns them clear tasks through the role description and other assignments linked to achieving the mission and strategies, plus he/she is looked to by his/her team members to review, recognize and reward, and then each team member exerts his/her best effort; the manager is truly accountable for the results. VARI is a powerful principle to follow in the path to a high performance organization. It is just one aspect of the other principle here which is Accountability must equal Authority.
I will discuss Accountability must equal Authority in a later post. Please feel free to comment or like this post.


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