Three Reasons You’re Accountable For Your Employees’ Accountability

Since my business is helping organizations create and maintain cultures of ethics, compliance, and accountability, it’s no surprise that I spend a lot of time in front of managers and executives, as well as leaders-in-training. One of the concerns/complaints I hear time and time again is, “I just can’t get my employees to do what they’re supposed to. I’ve pleaded. I’ve begged. I’ve encouraged. I’ve given them incentives. Nothing seems to get them doing what, or as much, as they’re supposed to!”

Really? Really? Call me crazy, annoying, or both but I’m not buying that this is entirely – or even primarily – as much about your employees as it is about you…

Assuming that you haven’t made a completely wacko hiring choice, and I’m hoping we can make that assumption, here are three places I’d suggest you look before holding them accountable for their accountability problems:

1. How clear have you been about what’s expected? I know that sounds obvious but it’s amazing how often we all fall down on this. Because we know what we expect, we assume that it’s equally clear to others. Check it out. Really. Check it out. Can they actually repeat your expectations back to you in a way that assures you that they know what’s expected? If not, make it absolutely clear. If they can…

2. Is fulfilling your expectations actually and fully in their control? Remember, their success or failure isn’t based what you think they ought to be able to do but really, truly, what can be done. Have you asked them about barriers to their success and then really listened to their answers? It doesn’t matter if those barriers are real or perceived – they’re real to your employees and, until you help them get over, under, or around those barriers, you (and they) are stuck. (NOTE: You don’t have to dumb down your expectations to make them easy. In fact, please don’t; expect great things from your employees! However, an expectation that’s actually impossible is an impossible expectation no matter how much you wish it was otherwise.)

You’ve made sure your expectations clearly pass the ‘do-able’ test? Okay…

3. Tell me how you have incentivized them. Remember that – plain and simple – we all do what’s reinforced. You’ve already given them pats on the back? A sales incentive in their pay? A productivity award at your annual banquet? I really don’t care. If your rewards aren’t changing behavior you haven’t really been listening to your employees about what’s important to them. Every one of your employees is different and every one of your departments and divisions are different. One size does not fit all! Take the time to see what’s important to those real folks – not to some ideal you have in your mind or some employee handbook version of the ideal employee – and you’ll have the knowledge to selectively reinforce the behavior you’re looking to create or expand. (NOTE: This involves not just managerial tactics but a thoughtful and strategic approach. Among the things you’ll also need to consider is whether or not reinforcing the desired behavior risks unintended consequences you’ll go on to regret. Those unintended consequences can’t always be foreseen but you’ll never spot them in advance of you don’t take the time to at least try to imagine them.)

Is all of this difficult? Of course it is! But I promise you, it’s whole lot easier than having employees unable or unwilling to join you in creating and maintaining a culture of ethics, compliance, and accountability.

Well, okay, it’s true… simply whining about how your employees are losers is waaaaaay easier than any of this. But is that really the approach you want to be known for? No? Whew. So then, go out there and start being accountable for your employees’ accountability! The coaching, consulting and training I do has shown me that this can all be done and done well. So, if you’re still not hitting your targets, let me know. I’ll be glad to help.

 

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