Two words PREVENTING your teams from being accountable

May 28, 2024

In trying to build connection with our team and get them to do something, we often use two fateful words that shoot ourselves in the foot: I NEED. 

"I need this presentation done by 2pm."

"I need to send this to the client by end of week."

"I need you to fill out the status report."

The problem?

It makes your team members accountable to YOU instead of their job. It turns the ask almost into a favor or something they are doing out of the goodness of their heart, instead of doing it because it's an expectation of their job.

In episode 119 of Managing Made Simple I talk about why this is such a problem, and what to say instead.


This is a mistake I made SO MANY TIMES in my work leading team operations in tech. I'd say to a team member, "hey I need you to finish this by noon so I can send it to engineering." And if the person liked me, they'd finish it on time. But if they were busy or didn't really care about what I needed or got sidetracked, or any number of reasons, then they wouldn't and that thing would be late. They didn't feel accountable - why would they?

Instead of "I need," frame the conversation around the expectation.

"The deadline from engineering for this task is 12pm, ping me when you're done and I'll send it along."

Doesn't that have so much more punch?!

At the end of the day, it isn't about you or your needs, so it becomes confusing when we muddy the message that way. Our team members don't know if it's really something they have to do or not.

Make it clear and things will change. If you build it, they will come ;)

If you are struggling with folks meeting deadlines, filling out status reports, or generally following through with what you are asking of them, give this a try and watch folks start to step it up.

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