“You must hold yourself accountable to at least the same level of expectation you have for your employees,” says Miller. “A rule applies to everyone or it applies to no one. As a leader you must be keenly aware that everyone is watching you, and everything starts at the top.”
Spell out expectations to the letter. Without clear expectations, there’s no way to hold someone accountable. You must make sure that each employee has a clear understanding of what is expected of them in the job he or she performs. That may mean going into detail that, on the surface, feels like overkill—but isn’t. Telling employees “It’s vital to me that I can always rely on you to do what you say you’ll do. If you can’t because circumstances have changed, let me know ASAP with a fix-it plan” sets a very clear expectation.
Know when to nourish your employees. Of his time at General Electric, Jack Welch once said, “My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.” It’s clear that Welch knew the importance of holding people accountable. He had a standard for his employees, and anyone who didn’t meet that standard would suffer the consequences. When mistakes are made, you can and should hold your people accountable. If you don’t, they can’t improve, and your company can’t improve.
“Of course, holding people accountable isn’t easy,” says Bedford. “You have to tell your employees the truth. You can’t do this without having conversations with people about what they are doing well and where they need to improve. This is where the accountability process breaks down most often. To cultivate a culture of accountability, you have to know when and how to provide nourishment so that your people can improve just as Welch did at GE.”
Hone the art of instant feedback. Miller and Bedford talk a lot about feedback in their book, because it’s so important. Most people don’t like giving feedback, and they like getting it even less! But you can’t hold people accountable without it. And Miller insists that for feedback to be productive, it must be shared regularly and without delay.
“If this practice becomes part of the culture, your people will come to expect it and not feel that it’s anything unusual,” she explains. “Leaders should share impressions as soon as they see the behavior they would like to encourage or discourage. Make sure feedback is specific, focusing on the particular issue or behavior in question. If a leader will focus on what the person actually said or did—the facts and nothing but the facts—without labeling the employee or the action, the employee will be more likely to hear and heed the feedback.
“You can also use the S.I.S. Feedback Model,” she adds. “It is a straightforward and objective process in which you first describe the situation, then explain what impact it had, and then suggest ways to stop (or continue) the behavior. The model teaches people to focus on the facts—what the person said or did—and the positive or negative consequence of those actions without resorting to name-calling or other inflammatory language, which will only add fuel to the fire.”
“In order to establish a culture of accountability, there can be no double standard,” concludes Bedford. “Leaders and employees must follow the same set of rules; otherwise the whole system breaks down. The good news is that when leaders commit to role modeling the right behaviors, their employees will follow.”
For more information, please visit www.millerbedford.com.