“A body of people holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” – Thomas Paine
In working with my clients, one of the biggest challenges they mention is being consistent with holding employees accountable for their work. The best employees want to be held accountable for what they are doing – they don’t mind it in the least. But they also want other people to be held to the same standard of accountability. When leaders “let things slide” for certain people (for whatever reason,) it begins to negatively affect morale, productivity, and profitability. If it’s not addressed promptly, the outcome could be disastrous. Holding people accountable is NOT micromanaging. It should not be conducted as a fear tactic. However, it is important for the well-being and success of the organization.
Here are 6 things you MUST do to create a culture of accountability:
Be crystal clear about your expectations. Ensure that you are communicating goals and tasks effectively. Make sure that your employees are crystal clear as to what is expected of them. If clarity exists on all sides, it is easier to hold people accountable. How can you possibly hold someone accountable for something that isn’t clearly explained?
Be realistic and fair. Make sure that the goals you’re setting can actually be achieved. Don’t set arbitrary expectations. Be specific. Set deadlines. Expect them to be met. Be flexible when necessary.
Be consistent. Hold every employee accountable for his or her productivity, or lack thereof. Not everyone’s standards are going to be the same. Nor should they. Every job is different and you cannot hold an employee who is new to the team or organization to the same standards as someone who is more experienced. Allow for a learning curve.
Gather all the facts. Before you start disciplining someone, make sure you have all of the relevant facts. Leaders and managers should avoid an “egg on face” scenario. One way to do that is to know what you’re talking about. If you don’t, you won’t be effective when enforcing accountability standards.
Make firm decisions. Make decisions quickly. Stick to them. Assume responsibility for whatever disciplinary action that you take when dealing with a non-productive or lazy employee. Doing so will hopefully improve the individual employee’s performance but will also send a message to the rest of the team that you’re serious about accountability.