As a leader, I’m sure you’ve been told that you need to hold your team accountable. In fact, you may have even heard it from me!
I find that many leaders shy away from “accountability” as a concept because they think it’s just a series of one-time, tough conversations that cause friction with their team members.
Why rock the boat when things aren’t so bad? Why bother when things are still getting done and people are relatively happy?
Right? Not so much.
There are two big misconceptions about accountability that I find a lot of leaders believe:
- Any time you hold your employees accountable, that conversation needs to be in a formal setting, like an annual review
- The only way to maintain accountability is to have difficult conversations with employees about the things that go wrong
I’m here to remind you that neither of these things are true!
The best way to keep people in your organization accountable is to foster an ongoing healthy culture of accountability, and the rest will come naturally.
Building this kind of culture requires big thinking and keeping yourself accountable as much as (or even more than) anyone else in your organization.
So how can you overcome the untruths that are in the way of a culture of accountability among your team? Here are my tips.
DITCH THE ANNUAL REVIEW
I’ve never been a big fan of the annual review. I’ve seen too many companies only do these reviews out of obligation, using a “one-template-fits-all” approach that doesn’t capture the values and metrics that truly matter for their employees’ growth.
Worse yet, managers tend to wait until the annual review to give any and all feedback that employees then have to try and implement over the next year with no ongoing guidance.
Any performance review should be a summary of performance for a specified period of time. It should not be used as a way to reveal new challenges or give unspoken recognition. Those are things that need to be communicated in real-time.
Performance reviews should be a punctuation mark on conversations that have been taking place on a regular basis—not a catch-all for anything a manager hasn’t said in the moment.
THIS is what a true culture of accountability looks like. Intervening when a change needs to be made in a timely manner and with specific steps for change; then a follow-up conversation to determine how to proceed next.
I believe that if you can build a robust and honest ongoing communication process, you can eliminate the need for an annual review altogether.
HOLD UP YOUR END OF THE BARGAIN
Tough conversations with employees are certainly a part of a culture of accountability, but they don’t account for all of it.
A culture of accountability starts with leadership modeling what it looks like to be accountable within the context of the organization and staying as consistent as possible.
A good leader will develop and explain their core values, then hold everyone accountable to them—including themselves!
What does this look like?
- Following through on commitments;
- Showing up to meetings and appointments, just as you said you would;
- Demonstrating ethical practices; and
- Taking responsibility when you’ve made mistakes.
As a leader, think about what the best, highest-performing employee would do; then show your team members how to be that employee.
At the end of the day, a culture of accountability should naturally lead to a culture of high performers.
Better yet, employees will feel comfortable receiving feedback that helps them to grow, because they know that it’s backed by an accountable leader who is willing to walk them through the necessary steps to improve.
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