Student Organization Officers Guide

Accountability and Constructive Feedback


Creating an organizational culture of accountability and providing direct, constructive feedback to organization members are among the most important, and difficult, responsibilities of a leader. However, taking on this task has positive benefits not only for your organization, but also your future success as an employee, team member, and leader.


Creating a Culture of Accountability

Accountability may have a negative connotation, but is vital in creating enjoyable, gratifying, productive experiences for members and officers alike. To promote accountability, officers and advisors should consider the following practices:

    • Set clear expectations early. Refer to the duties and responsibilities outlined in the organization’s constitution and use an “Officer Agreement” to articulate the expectations and requirements of the position. When assigning members or officers new tasks, follow-up in writing to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Note specific deadlines or due dates as well as expected reports or updates. Expectations should be defined before elections and other times when roles are assigned.
    • Check in often. Monitor progress through personal check-ins or via reports during regular meetings.
    • Provide support and resources. Ensure that the member or officer has the information, tools, and coaching needed to complete their tasks.
    • Provide feedback early and often. Often, other officers and members know that their teammate is falling behind or not fulfilling their duties. However, they wait to address the issue with the hopes that the situation will improve. To promote a culture of accountability, leaders should address any issues as soon as they are observed, and follow-up regularly.
    • As a last resort, follow your organization’s procedures for removing officers or members.


Providing Constructive Feedback

When effectively providing constructive feedback, leaders maintain important personal and professional relationships, provide opportunities for their team members to grow, and demonstrate their commitment to the organization. Use these tips to develop your feedback skills and foster a culture of accountability and growth in your organization:

    • Avoid surprising the individual. Set a time to meet and describe the purpose of the conversation.
    • Begin the conversation by asking if now a good time to discuss their performance. If not, reschedule, but in a timely manner.
    • Provide specific examples of the individual’s actions that you would like to address. For example, “During last week’s meeting, you were not engaged and did appear to be listening to the presenters,” or “We expected you to have reserved a space for our upcoming event, but you have not yet done so.”
    • Providing too much information or feedback can become overwhelming and prevent the conversation from being constructive, so be strategic about what feedback to relay. Often solving one issue will have positive effects in other areas.
    • Articulate why an improvement or change is needed. Discuss organizational goals and values when possible. Discuss how their actions might affect others. Consider how the desired improvement or change could benefit the individual.
    • Ask questions about their experience with the task and/or the organization. Ask how you or others could help them improve and fulfill their responsibilities.
    • It is appropriate to ask if the role or task is something that they will be able to fulfill, but avoid making assumptions about the individual's values, priorities, or commitments.
    • Ensure understanding. Consider asking the individual to rephrase the feedback and address any misunderstanding.
    • Work toward an agreement regarding future actions and performance.
    • Practice the conversation in advance and anticipate their potential responses. Will they be surprised by the conversation? What if they disagree with your assessment of the situation? What if they mention excuses or other rationale for their behavior? Practicing and anticipating responses can help you stay calm and focused on the goal of the conversation.