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How to Keep Employees Accountable for Results

[This post is excerpted from our new ebook, ROADMAPP]

Have you ever gone to bed smiling because you knew that in the morning someone would hand you an urgent report or confirm a critical meeting or handle a crucial situation? Then not been able to sleep the next night because the big event didn’t happen?

Happens all the time. Schedules slip and no one tells you. People promise to do something and forget. Or maybe hope that you’ll forget.

That’s where Accountability comes in.

Accountabilities determine who needs to do what by when. If those are clear, you can track and measure results versus expectations.

When you are explicit about Who, What, and When, things stop slipping as much. Then you get to sleep well two nights in a row. Is that cool or what?

The keys to effective management of Accountabilities are:

  • Clarity
  • Communication
  • Commitment
  • Tracking
  • Follow up

Clarity: No room here for vagaries or vagueness (they’re different; look them up). You need to name names, dates, and expectations. Be specific. And for heaven sakes, write them down.

Communication: It does no good for you to achieve clarity and write it down if you don’t let all the interested parties know. Communicate face-to-face, then confirm in writing.

Commitment: It similarly does no good to write it and share it if all you get is a polite smile. Just because you have told Sam that you expect her to have the new accounting system ready to use by a week from Tuesday doesn’t mean that Sam intends to comply. You need Sam to commit and agree. In writing.

Tracking: Not that you want to be paranoid, but people don’t always do what they promised. Sometimes they are intentionally treacherous, sometimes merely absentminded. Either way, you don’t want to learn that the bank didn’t deposit the money in your account until after your checks bounce. Part of skillful management of Accountabilities is having a tracking mechanism.

Maybe you ask for periodic progress reports. Or you establish milestones which, if not achieved, raise questions. Forewarned is forearmed.

Follow up: If a milestone has been missed, don’t let it go without conversation. Conversely, if Who has successfully done What by When, don’t let it go unrecognized. And if Reality changes, don’t forget to consider the implications. What else needs to change? Put it in writing.

Organizations with a culture that tolerates low accountability are often fun for a while. Until they get branded as Losers. No one likes that. Demanding accountability can feel like tough love, but consider the alternative. Help your team win.

How do you hold people accountable? Have you transformed a low-accountability culture into a more successful one?

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