Do your managers know how to make their employees accountable for their performance — in a way that won’t turn workers off?
Training employees to be responsible for their personal performance requires them to be willing to admit their mistakes — a leap of faith many workers find difficult.
In his book, Closing the Execution Gap, Rick Lepsinger lays down some techniques that help establish accountability guidelines. He suggests managers:
- Define the desired action. This is where managers clarify expectations (what “good looks like”) and identify who is accountable for which parts of the work. No matter how good an idea someone has or how sincere his intentions, nothing happens until someone commits to taking some action to produce a specific result.
- Set a timetable. Establishing an agreed upon due date is critical to ensuring everyone is on the same page. And the terms need to be specific. Due dates like “as soon as possible” and “by next week” are virtual guarantees of misunderstandings (Does “by next week” mean before next week? Does it mean Monday of next week or Friday of next week?)
- Establish ‘checkpoints.’ One of the biggest mistakes managers make is waiting to check in until the project is due. Although the pitfall seems obvious, a surprising number of managers stumble into it. Two possible causes: Managers fear that checking progress indicates a lack of trust in the worker — or they want to avoid being viewed as a micro-manager.
A few effective questions
Lepsinger suggests three questions employees should answer when meeting with their supervisor after things haven’t quite gone according to plan:
- Present: “What can I do now to get on track?”
- Future: “What can I do to prevent this problem from happening again in the future?”
- Past: “What could I have done to prevent the problem? What, if anything, did I do that might have possibly contributed to the problem?”
That last question might cause employees to get defensive, Lepsinger says.
He suggests managers defuse the defensiveness with a statement like:
“I know you’re as concerned as I am about this and I realize it’s not the way you wanted things to turn out. This conversation is not about assigning blame. It’s about solving the problem and ensuring that we keep it from happening again.”