8 "be-attitudes" of holding people accountable
3. Be Timely. If there is an issue with performance versus stated expectations, bring the matter up immediately. If you wait for a couple days before trying to bring up the issue, it just tends to cloud and confuse the person who did not meet expectations. If a boss says, "You did not answer the phone in the proper way last week," how is the employee supposed to even remember the incident?
4. Be Kind. Always apply the Golden Rule liberally. If you had a lapse in performance, justified or not, how would you want to get the information? Keep in mind that some people are more defensive than others, so if you like your feedback "straight from the shoulder," tone it down when dealing with a particularly sensitive individual.
5. Be Consistent. If you are a stickler for certain behaviors, make sure you apply the discipline consistently. Coming down hard on Mike for being late for work can seem unfair if you habitually let Mary waltz in 45 minutes after the start of the shift. Always avoid the appearance of playing favorites. Recognize that, as a human being, you do have differences in your attitudes toward people, but when holding people accountable, you must apply the same standards across the board.
6. Be Discrete. Embarrassing a person in public will create a black mark that will live for a long time. If there is an issue of performance, share the matter with the individual privately and in a way that upholds the dignity of the person. This issue also refers to the Golden Rule.
7. Be Gracious. Forgiving a person who has failed to deliver on expectations is sometimes a way to set up better performance in the future. Get help for individuals who need training or behavior modification. A leader needs to be mindful of his or her personal contribution to the problem through past actions, like not dealing with a problem when it is small. If the current infraction is a habitual problem or one born out of laziness, greed, or revenge, then stronger measures are needed. People cannot be allowed to continually fail to meet expectations. The corrective measures will be based on the severity and longevity of the problem. One caveat: gracious behavior cannot be faked, so be sure you are calm and have dealt with your own emotions before speaking to the employee.
8. Be Balanced. This is an incredibly important concept. There is nothing written on a stone tablet that says all forms of accountability must be negative. In fact, most people love it when someone holds them accountable for all the wonderful things they have done along the way. If we view accountability as both a positive and a corrective concept, then we can remove much of the stigma associated with the word. When we hear a top manager say, "We need to hold our people accountable," it means negative feedback in most cases. This is an easy thing to change by simply modifying our pattern of feedback.
Holding people accountable is a great concept if it is used in a consistent, kind, and thoughtful way. Try changing the notion of accountability in your work area to incorporate the 8 "Be-Attitudes" above, and you will see a significant improvement in your culture.
Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He is author of the following books: "The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals," "Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online," and "Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (585)-392-7763, or at http://www.leadergrow.comor blog, thetrustambassador.com.