Holding Others Accountable is SIMPLE

By Brian Cole Miller

No organization can prosper without having the right people in place doing the right things at the right time. However, in today's fast-paced business world, more and more employees are expected to perform a variety of tasks, wear many different hats, and think outside the box. As a result, the lines of responsibility and accountability have become blurred.

Managers and business leaders often assume employees know what is expected of them. They are then surprised when the work doesn't get done as planned; fingers are pointed and blame is placed (often misplaced).

As a manager or business leader, it's your responsibility to set your employees up for success. You need to define your expectations and then hold your employees accountable for those results. But how do you do this?

Actually, it's simple. Follow these six SIMPLE steps with your employees and start to realize the results you've always wanted.

S=Set Expectations

The success of any organization comes down to one thing: how well it organizes its members to focus on and work toward the same purpose. Your employees need to know what is expected of them before you can hold them accountable for anything. You can't assume they know what is supposed to be done, when, and to what quality level. The more clearly you set expectations and goals up front, the less time you will waste later clarifying - or worse, arguing about - what was really expected.

I=Invite Commitment

Just because your employees know what to do doesn't mean they will do it. After goals and expectations are set, employees need to commit to achieving them. Employees are more likely to do this when they understand two things: how the goals will benefit them personally, and how the goals will help move the organization forward. Once this connection is made they are more likely to buy into the goals, and actually welcome you holding them accountable for the results.

M=Measure Progress

You need information to hold your employees accountable. You must measure their ongoing performance and gauge whether or not they meet the goals and expectations to which they had previously committed.

Goals are only measurable when they are quantified. Measure the results and compare them to your employees' goals to discover the gaps that require further attention.

P=Provide Feedback

Share the information you gather with your employees. Feedback won't solve problems by itself, but it will open the door for problem-solving discussions and follow-up actions. Your employees need feedback to do a good job and improve in areas where performance is falling short of expectations. Most of the time, giving objective, behavioral feedback is all it takes. Setting expectations followed by quality feedback is the backbone of holding someone accountable for results.

A note about the way in which you provide feedback:
True feedback is a gift. To be effective, the feedback you offer must come from a sincere desire on your part to help or support your employee, not to merely fix him or her. If you can't come at it from this perspective, you may fail, no matter what words you choose or methods you use. Intent is more important than technique.

L=Link to Consequences

Sometimes employees need a little external motivation to live up to their commitments. When they struggle to reach their goals, you can help them by administering appropriate consequences. Do not confuse consequences with punishments. Punishments are those things inflicted on employees that make them pay for their shortcomings. They do not contribute to a solution. Consequences, however, will guide and focus employees' behavior and encourage them to take their commitments more seriously.

E=Evaluate Effectiveness

Once your employees have committed to the expectations you set and you have provided constructive feedback and support along the way, it is time to evaluate your results. Look at the quantifiable goals you set forth and determine if you were successful at holding your employees accountable for reaching those goals. Also, review how you handled the process. Find ways to be more effective at applying the principles of accountability and hold yourself accountable for holding others accountable.

Employee accountability is a big factor in business success. Sure you're busy, but don't make the mistake of hoping your employees will figure out what they should do on their own. Help them achieve success for themselves and for your business by setting expectations, inviting commitment, measuring progress, providing feedback, linking to consequences, and evaluating effectiveness.

Put a systematic and consistent method in place and you'll find that when people are held accountable for the work that must get done, it gets done – and then some!

Brian Cole Miller is the principal and founder of Working Solutions, a company dedicated to helping front line managers be more competent and confident in their jobs. He is also the author of several books for busy managers. His book, Keeping Employees Accountable for Results, is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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