Holding Employees Accountable

Imagine your company was preparing to hire a new employee and used this job description:

“Candidates must be eager to come to work, look busy and appear engaged at all times.  It is vital that they are willing to accept a paycheck every two weeks in exchange for accomplishing nothing we need done.  Superior candidates should be unable to send or reply to emails, or make or return phone calls as this is both a hallmark and our secret to everyone’s ability to create and live in chaos.  If you can over promise and under deliver on everything we need you to do, then you will have exceeded our expectations.  No one will every set goals or deadlines because it might force our hand to manage performance.  In fact we allow employees to rate their own performance and merit increases no matter what is accomplished.  If you think you can avoid work, but enjoy getting paid a salary, please apply whenever you can!  No rush, or we might have to process the application”

Holding employees accountable.  What a concept huh?  Actually it is only a concept in practice in the very best of companies, the most successful and profitable.  In too many organizations it is just lip service from the top down, with few employees actually earning their paychecks.  Now while companies would never set out to hire this level of performance, what does it say if employees are allowed to get paid and not get much done?

In reality, if someone is this bad they are not apt to stay employed long.  But what happens when your sales people promise follow-up and then don’t follow-up with the customer?  What happens when we promise a co-worker to get them a report, and then just flake out and forget?  What happens when a week goes by and the project you are working on is no further along than last week?

Most accountability experts will tell you that the first person we need to hold accountable is ourselves.  We must do as we say, return calls and emails quickly, live up to our obligations and not blame others.  And yet if we are managers, basic management development 101 screams out that we are required to manage our staff’s performance.  We must set goals, and follow-up and hold accountable people who miss deadlines.

I have a couple of clients right now that for an assortment of reasons have not been able to move projects along as quickly as they had hoped for.  And yet, they both do something that makes me hang in there with them.  They communicate often and let me know what is going on.  One person in particular has been honest too.  That might sound like a little thing, but what it tells me is that she trusts me and her willingness to tell me the truth instead of some half-baked excuse is that she is holding herself accountable.


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