The Six Secrets to Accountability
Accountability is a word that gets tossed around so much in business that it’s become a cliché or a punchline. It’s become meaningless! At the first sign of lackluster results, those at the top announce: “We need some accountability!” Or “We need to start holding our people accountable!”
Great idea… if only we actually did it this time.
The First Secret
Surprisingly, the first secret to holding people accountable is simply to start doing it.
Just start holding people accountable. Too many managers are afraid to hold people accountable – they wrongly believe bad behaviors or bad habits will change if we just ignore them. They won’t; they’ll only get worse.
Of course, accountability is always easier if you began doing this the day you became their manager.
However, even if you’ve avoided it up until now, start doing it today because accountability is like planting a tree. Over time, your people will grow with the organization if you have a culture of accountability. As you’ve probably heard, there is an old Chinese proverb that says there are two best times to plant a tree. The first best time was 20 years ago; the second best time is right now.
Start right now!
The Second Secret
Great people welcome accountability, and good people need accountability to become great. Moreover, bad people must be held accountable, or others will see this and question why they work for you. (Or why you’re so unfair.)
Think about it. Are you happier and more secure in your job when you know what’s expected of you? Of course, you are! The same is true for your top performers (and the ones who have the potential to be top performers). They need to know what’s expected of them; they’ll welcome the chance to work for a team with an accountability culture.
The Third Secret
Accountability is not just holding your team to the rules and goals, it includes making sure they have everything they need to succeed – and asking them regularly to be sure they do have everything they need.
Your primary job as a manager of people is to remove the roadblocks and provide the tools everyone needs for success. Once you’re doing this daily, you then have “permission” to hold them accountable to the results.
The Fourth Secret
Accountability is not a negative; and should never be. Accountability is simply living by the contract you have with your team.
Make no mistake, they hold you accountable to that contract every day. Have you ever paid someone less than they earned? If so, they let you know about it right away, and they expected (and probably received) a corrected paycheck the same day. It’s time to start enforcing this contract both ways, isn’t it?
The Fifth Secret
Accountability is not micro-managing. In fact, micro-management is most often a myth. It’s a catch-all term used by ineffective employees to explain why they left their last job: “My boss was always micro-managing me!”
Bad employees don’t like being told what to do, but great employees want direction. As I wrote earlier, they want to know what’s expected of them. Accountability will help you weed out the bad apples. They’ll either become good or they’ll leave and complain to the next hiring manager they meet how you were micro-managing them.
The Sixth Secret
If accountability rises to the level of written warning, then the manager has failed. You either failed when you hired the person, or you failed to lead them to this point. Pick the reason but realize it’s your fault.
Of course, this shouldn’t stop you from holding them accountable and escalating this accountability to written warnings or termination, if warranted. That’s your job.
There’s good news and great news about being a manager. The good news is that if people always did what we needed them to do, we never would’ve invented managers. The great news is this means you only need to hold your team accountable every single day for the rest of your working life.
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