“Didn’t your boss call you out for not sharing issues, obstacles and accomplishments like you’re supposed to?”
“He never said a word.”
This exchange occurred in a meeting in which the company owner was explaining how ineffective the daily readout sessions had become and how the new online data reporting system would fix the communication problems.
After the meeting, I spoke with him one-on-one and asked, “If people fill out their online report the same way Tessa and others handled their verbal report, what will happen?”
“Will they be held accountable for providing the requested information?”
“Look, we ‘re not going to do the whole MBA thing where there’s a rule list a mile long and people get progressive discipline. We’re not that kind of company.”
“I understand that. There are ways, however, to hold people accountable that aren’t that drastic.”
“Like saying after a meeting, ‘Tessa, I saw you took a shortcut in the readout protocols in today’s meeting. I just want you to know that I noticed, and I know you’ll do better tomorrow and give a full report.’”
Silence again. Then a rueful grin.
“Yeah, absolutely there’s room to have those kinds of discussions. Maybe that’s why I’m not seeing the results I want. I’m so focused on making this company a fun place to work that I neglected to insist on ownership for results.”
Accountability…is a readiness to have one’s actions judged by others and, where appropriate, accept responsibility for errors, misjudgments and negligence and recognition for competence, conscientiousness, excellence and wisdom. It is a preparedness to change in the light of improved understanding gained from others.” ~Geoff Hunt
Holding people accountable doesn’t require a six-inch thick binder, a mega-sized online database of rules, a bureaucracy, or being a micro-managing jerk. What’s needed is a boss or colleague or pal who has our best interest at heart and who has the character and courage to speak out when we don’t deliver up to our potential.
4 ways to shine the light of accountability
1. Agree on performance requirements at the beginning of the work project. Get very, very clear on outcomes, and talk them through together to assure two-way understanding. If skill and/or commitment gaps exist, devise a plan to close them.
2. Take action the very first time outcomes fall short of defined expectations. Doing so doesn’t make you a bad person. Doing so makes you a good manager. It builds your credibility and many times solves the performance problem, especially if it’s a commitment issue. Some folks like to test and see where the boundaries are. Let them know you expect excellence.
When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice. ~Brené Brown
3. Give people permission to fail occasionally. Forget about perfection. Failure is a magnificent teacher. The key to success is helping people see the light of understanding when they make the same mistake a second time.
Sometimes failure is the opposite of success, but sometimes failure can be the pathway to success. ~David W. Jones
4. Use tough empathy when performance continues to fall below expectations and you know it’s not a lack of skill issue. That’s what leaders do because they know accountability is an incubator for confidence, character and success!