8 "be-attitudes" of holding people accountable
A frequent refrain of top managers is "we need to do a better job of holding people accountable." Accountability seems to be the mantra for organizational get-well programs these days. One can agree with this in part, and yet there is an aspect of accountability that feels like a cop-out.
The key to leadership is to create an environment whereby people do the best they can because they want to do it. When employees know it is clearly in their best interest to give their maximum discretionary effort to the organization, managers don't have to crack the whip as often. Imagine working in an environment where people do the right things not because they are expected, but because it is in their best interest. In that atmosphere, holding people accountable would nearly always be a positive occurrence rather than negative. How refreshing!
It is the actions, attitudes, and intentions of leaders, not the rank and file, that make the environment of either reinforcement or punishment the habitual medication for individual performance issues. Let's examine 8 attitudes or behaviors of leaders that can foster a culture where holding people accountable is a precursor to a feeling of celebration instead of a sentence to the dungeon.
1. Be Clear About Your Expectations. It happens every day. The boss says, "You did not file the documents correctly by client; you totally messed up." Then, the assistant says, "You never told me to file them by client, so I used my initiative and filed them by date because that is what they taught us in Record Retention." Holding people accountable when the instructions are vague is like scolding an untethered horse for wandering off the path to eat grass.
2. Be Sure Of Your Facts. A manager learned this painful lesson early in his career. He gave his administrative assistant a letter to type for a customer. When he got it back, the letter was full of obvious errors. He immediately held her accountable for the sloppy work and called her into a conference room to let her know of his disappointment. When he told her about the errors, she said, "Well if you had taken the time to notice the initials on the bottom of the letter, you would have seen that I farmed that work out to Alice because I was busy with other things. I did not type that letter." Gulp. The manager tried to cover with, "I am glad, because your work is usually higher quality than that," but the irrevocable damage had been done. If you are going to accuse someone of sloppy work, make sure it was done by that person.