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The “A” word

No, not that one….I am talking about accountability. There, I said it. It is that awful word that so many companies are loath to use. The general gist of what I see and hear is that it is too difficult to hold people accountable, it isn’t pleasant, or because of the amount of group/team work that goes into a project, you can’t isolate any one individual’s contribution; therefore you can’t hold them accountable. Huh!? Are you kidding me!? To me, translated that sounds a lot like lazy (bad) management. Using those excuses is like saying, “I enjoy the title and pay of manager but I don’t want to actually have to manage any people.” Right…

This is why having an effective performance system is so critical. Your system doesn’t have to be overly complex and it shouldn’t be onerous. It should, however,

1) clearly outline what the expectations are for the individual in their role;
2) identify how success will be measured and;
3) show what the rewards or consequences are for success/failure.

accountabilityNow, please don’t think I am getting all medieval here. I am being overly simplistic to demonstrate a point. That being said, in many organizations there is a fundamental failure to execute on one of those three areas. The proof is in the pudding – how often at your company do you hear people say things like, “How the heck does Jane still keep her job, she never does anything?” Or “Oh no, Carl is on this project, we will have to bring in extra resources to compensate.” You get my drift. Somewhere along the line there was a failure to hold someone accountable. Perhaps Jane or Carl hasn’t been held accountable for their performance. Better yet, perhaps their manager(s) haven’t been held accountable for team or department results and thus underperformers (will or skill) have continued to muddle along.

What I am advocating for is that managers, leaders, and HR professionals need to start rowing in the same direction. We need to start holding ourselves and our teams accountable. We are accountable for our performance, our actions, our choices, our decisions, our adherence to corporate values, and overall we are accountable to the organizations that employ us. Last week I wrote a blog post about dumb HR policies. One of my readers/Twitter followers @linda_aldred commented that she thought part of the solution was personal accountability by all involved. I really like that line and I think she hit the nail on the head with the concept of personal accountability. By holding ourselves personally accountable for our actions, this would also drive more organizational accountability from a grassroots level.

Now the “coach” in me wouldn’t leave you hanging without some advice on how to drive home this accountability in your organizations. To that extent, I would suggest this basic model:

• Set proper goals/objectives with your employees
• Identify the expected outcomes, including how success will be measured
• When gaps are identified, discuss with your employee. Identify why the gaps are occurring and what the plan is to close the gaps. (i.e. training, greater focus, etc.)
• Continue to communicate, discuss, adjust, re-adjust
• If the gaps are not closed, hold the employee accountable (improvement plan, performance letter, etc.)

Part of the job of being a manager is having these difficult conversations. The thing is, if your staff know that these are the type of team expectations that you have and that they are accountable to you and their peers, than you often have far fewer issues to deal with. Or at the very least, your problem children will self-select out of your organization. Bottom line – you need to talk to your people. Find out where/why their performance gaps exist. Communicate with them but don’t accept excuses as that just enables the behavior. Remove the obstacles to their success, hold them accountable and reward when they achieve their goals. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Dave Clements at homebuilders.com

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