There are lots of reasons for not holding your people accountable for poor performance. It’s uncomfortable. It’s emotional. It takes time. It takes energy. The costs of holding your people accountable are significant. So what do you do? You procrastinate, or avoid it altogether.
But what about the other side of the equation? What are the costs of not holding people accountable? The obvious cost is that performance doesn’t improve. But the bigger cost is the message you send to everyone else. That poor performance is okay. That it doesn’t need to change. Worse, that you’re weak. That you’re not committed to winning.
So why should you hold your people accountable? Simple. Because the costs of not doing it are far greater than the costs of doing it.
Okay, then how should you hold people accountable?
First, change your mindset. Think of accountability as positive, not negative. It gives people the opportunity to improve, to achieve. The term, “constructive accountability” captures the spirit of this.
Next, have a roadmap. If you’re not prepared, then don’t be surprised if the conversation does spiral out of control. Here is my 5-step roadmap for constructive accountability:
1. Establish a Common Purpose
Set the tone by identifying your common purpose. Make clear that you and the employee are allies, not adversaries.
2. Confront Reality
Be calm and direct. Outline the current situation as evidenced by what you’ve observed or by some measure of performance. Have a collegial discussion focusing on why things are the way they are.
3. You Take Responsibility
Offer support. Ask what you can do to help the employee succeed. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they ask for (be prepared for excuses). But be open to legitimate things that you as the “coach” should be doing or providing.
4. State Clear Expectations
Be unambiguous about what you expect by when. Encourage them. Let them know you believe in them. And have them confirm that they understand your expectations.
5. Follow-Up Rigorously
The conversation is only step one. Be organized enough to calendar each follow-up meeting. And then disciplined enough to follow-through.
Now that you know why you must hold your people accountable and how you should do it, let me ask you one question:
Will you hold yourself accountable for making it happen?
Make it happen.
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