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Making staff accountable

By August 26, 2020 No Comments

Accountability is not simply taking the blame when something goes wrong. It’s not a confession.

Accountability is about delivering on a commitment. It’s responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks. It’s taking initiative with thoughtful, strategic follow-through.

And it’s necessary at all levels of the business. Senior executives can’t really be accountable unless the people who report to them also follow through on their commitments. This can be a challenge. We have seen leaders direct, question, and plead. We have seen them yell, act passive-aggressively, and throw up their hands in frustration — all in the service of “holding people accountable.”

None of that works. Getting angry with people when they fall short is not a productive process for holding people accountable. It almost always reduces motivation, engagement and ultimately performance, reducing discretionary effort.

What can be done to foster accountability in the people around us? We should aim for clarity in several areas:

Clear expectations. The first step is to be crystal clear about what you expect. This means being clear about the outcome you’re looking for, how you’ll measure success, and how people should go about achieving the objective. It doesn’t all have to come from you. In fact, the more skilled your people are, the more ideas and strategies should be coming from them.

Clear capability. What skills does the person need to meet the expectations? What resources will they need? If the person does not have what’s necessary, can they acquire what’s missing? If so, what’s the plan? If not, you’ll need to delegate to someone else. Otherwise you’re setting them, and you, up for failure.

Clear measurement. Nothing frustrates leaders more than being surprised by failure. Sometimes this surprise is because the person who should be delivering is afraid to ask for help. Sometimes it comes from premature optimism on both sides. Either way, it’s completely avoidable. During the conversation on expectation, you should agree on timely milestones with clear, measurable, objective targets. If any of these targets slip, jump on it immediately. Brainstorm a solution, identify a fix, redesign the schedule, or respond in some other way that gets the person back on track.

Clear feedback. Honest, open, ongoing feedback is critical. People should know where they stand. If you have clear expectations, capability, and measurement, the feedback can be fact-based and easy to deliver. Is the person delivering on her commitments? Is she working well with the other stakeholders? If she needs to increase her capability, is she on track? The feedback can also go both ways. Is there something you can be doing to be more helpful? Give timely feedback, and remember it’s more important to be helpful than nice.

Clear consequences. If you’ve been clear in all of the above ways, you can be reasonably sure that you did what’s necessary to support their performance. At this point, you have three choices: repeat, reward, or release. Repeat the steps above if you feel that there is still a lack of clarity in the system. If the person succeeded, you should reward them appropriately (acknowledgement, physical rewards or promotion for example). If they have not proven accountable and you are reasonably certain that you followed the steps above, then they are not a good fit for the role, and you should release them from it.

In these turbulent times with distance workers, new protocols and increased stress, it is even more critical to get your processes in place to ensure success.

It is therefore an important management function to ensure that their employees are appreciated, valued, and respected, and given positive feedback every day to ensure tomorrows performance is at least as good as todays.

To learn how Brownie Points could make a difference to your business, call the team today on + 61 (3) 9909 7411 to discuss your plans, or for more information or to arrange a free demonstration email us at

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