Accountability in the Workplace

In my January 8th blog post we discussed how to hold yourself accountable for reaching your own goals.  But as a manager or a CEO, how are you holding your employees accountable for reaching the division or company’s goals?

We all know why accountability is a must to successfully achieve goals, yet not all of us do it.  We get busy and let too much time pass before we discuss the issue, so the talk isn’t as effective. Or we avoid the fierce conversation altogether and tell ourselves “they know what they did and they’ll do better next time,” hoping the behavior will just fix itself.  How often has a situation remedied itself without us having to take some action to help correct it? And if it did remedy itself, what was the cost of waiting for it to work itself out rather than dealing with it head on?

Not upholding accountability is very costly to any business.  If your sales rep isn’t entering all of their information into your CRM about that new lead they’re working, then new sales could be lost.  If the customer success team isn’t following up with their existing customers to ensure they’re happy and successful, customers could move to a competitor that seems to care more.  Even not submitting internal timesheets accurately and in a timely fashion can be costly.  Your accounting team could be spending lots of extra cycles reconciling the timesheets to the billing software and chasing employees down to remind them to submit their time or ask for adjustments to be made.  Time spent doing that for multiple employees every week adds up fast.

Making sure your team knows that you’re aware of their actions and progress towards goals is the first step towards accountability. Having quarterly performance reviews can help persuade employees to not slack and keep up their hard work. With yearly performance reviews, so much time has passed that lots of events are forgotten by the time the review discussion takes place. And for managers who have many of these long reviews to do, they may be so exhausted and bored of the process by the time they get to the ones at the end that they give higher ratings than they should and don’t address key issues that could be improved. Employees know that things can get forgotten over the course of the year, so they may not worry about following all of the procedures as closely as managers and executives would like.

Quarterly reviews are definitely better than yearly reviews since they’re usually shorter to fill out and less time has passed between them. What’s even better than those, though, are biweekly or weekly 1:1s.  Meeting with all of your team members regularly and looking into key metrics that your department and company are measuring helps ensure that the employee is staying on task, but most importantly it shows the employee how their work is affecting the entire company.  You can show a correlation between the employee’s higher performance and the company’s, which helps improve employee satisfaction and drive.  Showing all of your team members that what they’re doing really matters increases their drive and can alleviate poor performance.

1:1s are also a great time to point out very specific things that the employee is doing well and areas in which they can improve. Make sure you focus primarily on the things they do well and should continue doing, letting them know how those actions help drive results and/or improve the company culture. Just mention the areas where the employee could do better and make sure they understand what improvements you’re looking to see.

Feedback is most effective and well received if there’s a strong rapport between the two people in the conversation.  Frequently checking in with your team and asking them questions about their personal lives is a great way to help build your relationship.  Employees can tell if you really care about them or not.  If you’re asking how their family is just so you can follow that with a favor, the employee will see right through that.  This could leave them feeling unappreciated and unimportant and is very likely to decrease their motivation to do great work.

Monitoring your progress towards your goals will help ensure you’re making steady progress and are on the right track.  Holding your team accountable for completing their tasks as expected goes hand-in-hand with this.  It may be necessary to tweak your policies if you find that they aren’t working the way you expected.  You won’t be tweaking your goals - just how you reach your goals. Being flexible with your vision of how you achieve success can create faster, steadier progress.  Sharing your vision with your team and any changes you may make will help your employees be able to adopt the vision as their own and increase their success, as well.