Here’s the scene. Joe Staff Member is on your team, and you’ve done all of the right things to develop a healthy relationship of accountability; you’ve clarified, mentored, coached, checked in, and supported. For whatever reason, though, Joe still isn’t producing results that match his competency. So, it’s time to take action.
In the five previous blogs on accountability (see below), we’ve been following a process to insure that you—the leader—have done your part to help your team members succeed. You should’ve been giving honest feedback by engaging with Joe along the way, so this shouldn’t be a surprise to him.
As you deliver the news, make sure that you and Joe have a clear picture that accountability is a win in four directions: a win for the organization, a win for you the leader, a win for the team, and a win for the individual. Done right, it’s going to be part of the growth process to help him perform better or find a line of work where his talents and passion are better suited. Just as important, you grow as a leader as you gain experience and confidence in respectfully and firmly holding people accountable for their performance and behaviors in the workplace.
“As you deliver the news [of his bad behavior], make sure that you and Joe have a clear picture that accountability is a win in four directions: a win for the organization, a win for you the leader, a win for the team, and a win for the individual.”
Here are some practical action steps to follow as you move forward –
Have a Mindset About What Needs to Happen
The leader who is holding someone accountable for poor performance (or bad behavior) must consider the rational and emotional components. Presenting the facts and specifics is essential and should not be difficult if you’ve made a few performance notes along the way. Dealing with the emotional/feelings part is often the biggest challenge.
“Presenting the facts and specifics is essential and should not be difficult if you’ve made a few performance notes along the way. Dealing with the emotional/feelings part is often the biggest challenge.”
Keep in mind that negative feedback always stings—our egos are tender. So, think through how you’re going to say things. If you are by nature not a “feelings” person (in other words, more focused on results than relationships), then discuss your approach with someone else who is more experienced and more sensitive than you are. Your critique should be fact-based dealing with specific issues and not an attack on the person.
Even those of us who don’t acknowledge feelings much can struggle with telling someone what they don’t want to hear. We must have the courage to deliver the unpleasant message and the consequences—some tough love— that go with unmet expectations. Anything less leads to a dysfunctional relationship and an unhealthy organization.
1. Plan your approach and get counsel.
Good execution starts with good planning. Here are four steps to remember:
a. Consider your options for consequences.
b. Discuss the situation with your manager.
c. Discuss with your HR rep/consultant.
d. Get your mindset right. Your goal is to be factual, logical, reasonable and firm.
2. Meet with the individual.
These specific guidelines will help ensure the best meeting possible:
a. Meet privately in your space and on your terms.
b. Demonstrate a respectful and caring attitude toward the person.
c. Explain the problem and indicate how expectations and agreements were not met.
d. Ask what the person sees as the cause of the problem. Listen carefully, and don’t defend or get into arguments.
– Expect rationalization and don’t fall for it. You’ve done your homework and you don’t want to let them off the hook. Stick to your plan unless there’s some significant problem that you weren’t aware of.
a. Restate your concerns and underscore that performance (or behavior) has not been acceptable.
b. Lay out next steps for moving ahead (consequences, rules, expectations).
In this step, your goal is to get the person’s attention, re-motivate them, and get them back on track—or get them on a path out of your organization.
“In this [difficult meeting], your goal is to get the person’s attention, re-motivate them, and get them back on track—or get them on a path out of your organization.”
3. Follow through.
Unfortunately, some adults can still operate as they did in a dysfunctional childhood; they may assume you weren’t really serious and that you’ll forget and let the matter drop. Here are four follow-through reminders –
a. Stay engaged and walk through the process.
b. Communicate your commitment and firmness
c. Provide encouragement.
d. Be respectful and firm.
Some Closing Thoughts on Accountability
Accountability is really at the heart of leadership, because it’s the best way to insure success for both people and the organization. As a leader, one of the most helpful guidelines I ever learned (and I have to keep coaching myself on it) was: Don’t procrastinate taking action or let things slide. Always move toward a problem; things never get better on their own. Your role is to initiate action to keep things on track. That’s what accountability is all about. Be courageous in your role as a leader.
“Don’t procrastinate taking action or let things slide. Always move toward a problem; things never get better on their own.”
So how are you doing with accountability? Is there a Joe Staff Member on your team that needs to be addressed? What wisdom can you share in this forum on ways that you’ve helped grow your people into a “healthy”, accountable organization? Please share your thoughts.
Previous Articles in This Series:
Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC® & FreedomStar Media™.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
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He is the author of Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton