Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Fostering accountability, part of Motivating and Engaging Employees.
- Any discussion of a performance management process has to include the topic of accountability. Unfortunately, it's often absent. People find it pretty easy to talk about the other parts of the process, which includes goals, feedback, and formal performance evaluations. But sometimes they feel that accountability is difficult, like a form of conflict they'd rather avoid. Accountability simply refers to holding people to agreed-upon standards, having them receive the sometimes difficult feedback they need, based on their performance.
In many ways, this is the opposite of recognition and rewards for great performance. But please hear me carefully. Accountability isn't about handing out punishments. It's a bigger concept about letting a person know where they stand and how they might need to improve. When you have clear standards and the necessary conversations, your team will be better off. Higher morale, higher productivity, and a sense that the team culture is fair. When you fail to effectively hold people accountable, difficult things happen that you'd rather avoid.
First, the person not held accountable will likely continue to underperform, given the absence of real performance expectations. In addition, failing to hold someone accountable hurts your reputation as well. You're not trying to be known as a harsh disciplinarian, but you are trying to be forthright and honest about defining expectations and then using needed feedback. Finally, when the rest of the team sees you fail to hold someone accountable, the likelihood that they will pull back their efforts just a little goes up because they might expect you to go easy on them as well.
In a moment, I want to talk to you about how to hold someone accountable. There are several different methods. But first, it's important to remember three rules that apply to any difficult performance conversation. One, always frame the conversation positively. Any issue can be addressed from a positive perspective or a negative perspective. Always choose the glass half full. Two, always be helpful. The goal is not to be accusatory or condemning. You're not simply telling them about how they failed to meet some standard.
You're trying to be constructive and helpful. Finally, the third rule is to always be consistent. When you do the right thing and hold someone accountable, others know about it, which means you have to strive to behave very similarly with all other employees. Now let's talk about the process of holding someone accountable. The assumption here is that there's been some performance deviation that merits your attention. First, start with an informal check-in. This is just an intentional but casual meeting where you're giving any needed feedback about their work and looking for opportunities to help.
Be clear about the performance issue you noticed, but remember, the goal is to be supportive. Next, if the problem persists, you have to make a choice. Do you keep giving second chances, or do you intervene more formally? I love second chances. But if the problem is severe enough, or if you find yourself having to give three and four chances, it might be time to get more serious. In that case, it's time for a performance improvement plan. This is a simple formal document that articulates precisely how performance will change and improve over a defined period of time.
It should be discussed with the employee to achieve clarity, and then it becomes part of their personnel file. Any performance improvement plan should also state what the possible consequences might be, should the behavior not change. All behaviors have consequences, so no improvement plan is complete without owning up to the possible outcomes. These might include a negative employee evaluation, a change in their role at work, or even letting them go. Accountability requires you to be firm, yet positive, at the same time.
The most well crafted goals in the world can't work in the absence of accountability. The good news is that holding someone accountable doesn't have to be negative. When you consistently follow the advice we just discussed, it will reinforce how people view you as a fair and transparent manager.
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- Assessing employee engagement
- Providing autonomy
- Building a transparent culture
- Modeling desired behavior
- Using monetary and nonmonetary motivators
- Fostering accountability
- Developing career paths for employees<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.