A Simplified Approach to Accountability

What steps do leaders need to take if they hope to effectively hold their people accountable for their performance? Most of the leaders I interact with believe holding others accountable is critical to their success as leaders. Unfortunately, many of those leaders are confused about the steps they need to take to hold their people accountable. The purpose of this article is to present a simple, uncomplicated, and practical process that will equip leaders to hold those they lead accountable for their attitudes, behaviors, and performance on a daily basis.

Step #1: Clarify your expectations of your people.

The process of holding others accountable begins with clarifying our expectations of our people. This requires clarifying the roles, responsibilities, and duties of our people. The primary work of leadership is the work of building relationships. These relationships must be accountable relationships. We can only hold others accountable when we have been clear about what we expect of them.

Step #2: Support your people in their efforts to fulfill your expectations.

After clarifying our expectations of our people, it is imperative that leaders proactively support their people in fulfilling their expectations of them. Supporting our people requires genuinely caring about their growth, progress, and success. Support often begins with leaders adequately training people for their roles. As leaders, we must support our people by providing them with all of the tools and resources they need to be successful in their roles. There are times that supporting our people involves eliminating any of the obstacles, barriers, or impediments that prevent them from achieving success in their work. Support often requires us to patiently listen to our people, with the goal of practicing relational empathy with them. This empowers us to see things from their unique perspective and point of view which causes them to feel our support.

Step #3: Measure how well your people are meeting your expectations.

There is a timeless business expression that states, “You get what you measure.” It is human nature to focus on objectives that have been set, and to pay attention to metrics which are being measured. Holding people accountable involves measuring, tracking, and monitoring the performance of our people. If we have done a good job clarifying our expectations of people, it is only logical to conclude that legitimate accountability necessitates measuring whether our people are meeting our expectations. Measuring performance is critical in the accountability process.

Step #4: Consequence the behaviors of your people based upon their performance.

The final step in accountability is to “consequence” the behaviors and performance of our people. These consequences can either be positive or negative. When our people are meeting or exceeding our expectations, it is appropriate to positively celebrate, praise and express genuine appreciation to them. This may even lead to promotions and pay raises. When our people fail to meet our expectations, we must negatively consequence their behaviors. This may involve constructively redirecting them, or even lead us to threaten them with disciplinary action, and the potential loss of their jobs. Don’t complicate what it takes to hold others accountable. It is as simple as clarify, support, measure and consequence. If you want to sharpen your accountability skills as a leader, it is as basic as consistently following these four steps with your people.