Every turn of the calendar, people make New Year’s resolutions. Every election, politicians say that government leaders need to be held accountable. And every year organizations tell their leaders, “We need to hold our people to their words and actions.” Yet—just like New Year’s resolutions—these scenarios for accountability fall drastically short, as the mirror of accountability is often blurry with ego.
This means that as leaders, we see ourselves as actually holding our people accountable and feel that it’s the others that are failing or not following through. Many leaders have a case of accountability myopia—they see themselves as doing a sterling job, and the truth is they are most likely falling short of their own expectations.
So, how does a leader become better at holding their team members accountable? The answer is to first understand why doing so is so important, which can help with the painstaking process of implementing an accountability practice. In business—just like in life—if a person believes in the reasons for the fight, they will fight.
Harsh or Helpful?
In businesses, leaders can sometimes use the excuse of wanting to maintain a cordial and non-confrontational relationship, so they may be hesitant to hold a team member accountable. Reluctance to hold an employee accountable has a negative organizational impact. From the efforts of religious leaders to their congregations to sports coaches to their teams, there are myriad examples in daily life of promoting a culture of accountability.
When you think about it, many great people in this world can point back to a person in their life that pushed them more than anyone else—the one who held their feet to the fire and provided “tough love” motivation that may have appeared harsh—but at the end of the day, made them who they are today. When you think of all of these examples, holding an employee or team member accountable is not malicious, it is an incredibly helpful act. As a leader, we must care so much that we are willing to go through the extra pain and work to hold our employee’s accountable.
Lack of Accountability Leads to Failure
People often wonder why New Year’s resolutions fail; they fail because after the initial excitement of enacting personal change wears off, there is no framework for accountability. The same can be said for why businesses don’t hit their goals or reach their full potential. If holding a person accountable to their New Year’s resolution encourages growth, increases their confidence and positions them for success, the same must be done at work. When great leaders become the person committed to making their employees better versus just more tenured, they start to become a great coach—of a winning team.
Actions to become Better at Holding Your Team Accountable
- The “What” – “The best practice”
- The “Why”- “So we understand it, and believe it”
- The “How” – “So we know how to do it and understand the only thing stopping us are excuses”
What: Make it public; let the team know, so you as the leader are held accountable as well.
Why: When we publicly commit to something, we are more likely to stick to it.
How: Write down your expectations for the team, and write down what they can expect from you. Everybody must understand your expectations, so the team knows what is expected from them and that they are going to be held accountable. The expectations delivered to your direct reports and your superiors should highlight an expectation that they are to hold you accountable to holding others accountable. Trust that those that really care will let you know when you are not doing something you are supposed to be.
What: Write your expectations down and post them on your wall for you to see every day.
Why: It is really easy to get busy and caught up in the daily grind of the job and slip-up or forget. It is an out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing, especially when it is something as difficult as holding people accountable.
How: Write it down and post it somewhere where you can see it every day, make it into a poster, use Post-it notes, whatever it takes.
What: Make accountability a priority, as if your career depended on it (because it does)!
Why: If we feel something is important, we will do it. The only reason we don’t do something or forget is because we don’t assign importance to it.
How: Like most coaching activities in business, there is no immediate consequence to not holding team members accountable, but there is immediate pain or work. So it is really easy to let the “urgent” but not important things get in the way of doing what is really important. Make companywide accountability an urgent task by understanding that without it there can be companywide consequences—some you may not see until it’s too late.
At the end of the day, holding employees accountable is not a complicated issue or even an issue that is up for debate. Promoting an environment of accountability is a choice that leaders have to make each and every day. When accountability becomes a core principle, it is no longer a decision—becomes the law, and it is a law that creates successful actions.
Nathan Jamail, president of the Jamail Development Group, and author of the best-selling Playbook Series, is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and corporate coach.
For more information, visit www.NathanJamail.com.