According to a Harvard Business Review Report, 46% of managers are terrible at holding staff accountable, One out of every two managers is terrible at accountability. I’m surprised. I thought it would be higher. I’ve seldom seen managers good at accountability, including me, for most of my management career.
How’s that Plan Working for you?
I’ve watched managers take two approaches to accountability that don’t work, and yet they continue to use their chosen approach over-and-over again. What’s the adage about doing the same thing and expecting different results?
The Passionate, Angry Manager
Getting mad at employees and using fear as a motivator doesn’t work for long. Striking out when the results don’t meet expectations isolates the staff from the manager. Passive aggressive behavior, open frustration, and terminating employment in a fit of rage aren’t the answer. If anger and fear are your primary methods for holding employees accountable ask yourself this—how’s it working so far?
The Calm, Caring Manager
The calm, caring manager is usually nothing of the sort. A calm, caring manager would help their team rather than bury his or her head in the sand hoping the challenge will go away. Things will not get better on their own. Ignoring, excusing, and being controlled by conflict avoidance are not management strategies for success. If that’s your plan when’s the last time it worked? Has it ever worked?
How to Hold People Accountable
If you understand that anger and avoidance aren’t good plans for holding your team accountable, the next step is learning what does work.
To hold someone accountable, they must first understand the expectations. Clear cut plans of actions as well as the expected results must be defined and communicated, and not only in a 10-minute verbal communication. Expectations should be in writing. Expectations also must be realistic and achievable, and consequences should be attached from the start.
Deliver the Tools
Before setting expectations (or holding someone accountable for poor results), you must be certain they have the tools to achieve the intended outcome. Do they have the personnel, equipment, and training to succeed? Were there consequences outside of their control such as a late delivery of resources that adversely affected the results?
Use Objective Criteria
Base accountability on objective criteria such a numbers and facts. For example, if you manufacture widgets then your objective criteria could be 300 widgets produced in 30 days. Don’t base accountability on subjective criteria like saying your team needs a better attitude. If that’s the case, use observable behavior, not blanket statements about their attitude. What is it that they do that shows a poor attitude? Do they openly complain about work, customers, and co-workers? Are they producing an inferior product because they don’t follow procedure? Watch it and name it.
Honest feedback isn’t confrontation or shouldn’t be, because it should be coming from help. And feedback shouldn’t wait until the end of a project but should be followed up throughout. Never get emotional; deliver feedback calmly and honestly. Don’t sugar-coat it and don’t be afraid to recognize positive activities.
Stick to the Consequences
Whether it was a positive consequence such as a bonus, or negative such as a demotion or termination, not holding to consequences sends the wrong signal to the entire staff. If consequences aren’t held to then how serious will any expectations be taken?
Which Half Are You?
Are you in a management role, if so which half are you? Are you the half that’s good at holding your team accountable, or are you a manager whose plan isn’t working? So, what’s you plan now?