If you play a key role at an IT managed service provider (MSP), you can learn a lot from your peers.
That’s why I facilitate peer groups for MSP operations managers, service delivery managers, and other leaders. I help these groups share best practices, collaborate to solve common problems, and develop new ideas for everyone’s collective benefit.
Every MSP peer group meeting includes a “Lesson of the Day.” The lesson I want to share with you here is about the importance of accountability. Holding yourself and your team members accountable is essential to achieve sustainable success.
I’ve distilled five key elements of accountability based on principles established by Peter Bregman (in a Harvard Business Review article, “The Right Way to Hold People Accountable”) and Gino Wickman and Rene Boer (in their book, “How to be a Great Boss”).
To create a culture of accountability and build a success-driven team, here are the five essential principles you should follow:
1. Set clear direction and expectations (“for both you and me”):
- Task, including timeframe and roles
- Input effort; output quality
- Discussion and confirmation
Lead by example and hold yourself, as well as your team, accountable. Own your responsibilities and deadlines, and your team will follow suit. Establish crystal-clear expectations and open communication—no assumptions allowed. You and your team need to know what’s on everyone’s mind.
2. Provide the tools to enable success:
- Support resources available
- Training and technology required
- Asking questions to get help
Let employees know where/who they can turn to for help. Invest in continuous learning for your team (and yourself) to build skills that improve your business. Create a comfortable environment for asking questions—where seeking help and feedback is viewed as a strength, not a weakness.
3. Establish quantifiable metrics and milestones:
Measure individual and team progress through objective, quantitative data, not subjective opinion. Highlight strengths, don’t dwell on weaknesses. Focus on actions that can lead to improvement, don’t get stuck on short-term performance issues.
4. Give prompt, clear feedback:
- Factual, not subjective
- Fast (24 hours)
- Ask before you tell
Frequent check-ins provide positive reinforcement, boost morale, and prevent the team from going off track. As soon as you learn about something negative, give immediate, constructive feedback (within a day). But before you pass judgment, ask the team for their own take on the situation. This empowers team members to own their results.
5. Deliver rewards—or consequences.
- Praise in public
- Negative feedback in private
Recognize and reward individuals who produce good results, emphasizing their accountability. A public shout-out (and maybe a small token of appreciation, like a gift card) boosts individual pride, team spirit, and positive motivation. If problems arise, address them respectfully but directly—and privately. Focus on collaborating to find solutions, and use the opportunity as a “teachable moment.”
By cultivating a culture of accountability, where each team member is fully invested in their responsibilities, you can unlock your MSP’s full business potential.
For information about joining an MSP peer group, visit https://abramco.com/peergroup.