A Defined Guideline
Like the guardrail on a track, when a guideline is clear then there is no question about it. If you see a behavior you’re not a fan of and you think it makes sense to intervene, you should first be REALLY sure you’ve set the expectation formally, either as a team or individually. When there is an absence of a clear guideline then people are caught off guard when a leader tries to address an issue. Most of the time this puts the offender immediately on the defensive. As a side note, leaders should be pretty sure the behavior they are seeing is likely to have a negative impact on the business, culture, or team. Holding others accountable isn’t about micro managing every move someone makes.
A Clear Understanding of the Guideline
This is pretty self explanatory, but even if you have set the expectation, are you SURE they get it? Do they truly understand the behaviors they are to demonstrate in THIS scenario and ALL scenario’s like it? When they are confronted and they truly understand it’s more of a “hand in the cookie jar” reaction instead of a potentially hostile one. When this understanding is absent, you just come off like an entitled, power hungry jerk. Even if you think the conversation goes well, they’ll tell their colleagues otherwise.
Commitment to the Guideline
Of course this is most critical. If they commit to a behavior, guideline or expectation then you’ll know it. Commitment most commonly occurs after a clear invitation to do so. That’s right, you ask for it. Most employees don’t walk around pronouncing their commitment to uphold random guidelines or behaviors unless their prompted. (remember that HR tutorial you still need to complete?) How often do you go searching for the terms and conditions of your iTunes account? No, you don’t, because you don’t worry about it until Apple makes you commit to them by clicking the “I agree” button. (interesting that if you don’t commit to the terms then you can’t use the service)
When You need to Step in
So the first part of holding people accountable is to make sure what you’re trying to enforce, build, create meets the criteria above. But what do you do when someone is bumping the rails and jamming up other drivers? Here’s a simple process that’s worked for me.
Set expectations and provide training- First and foremost ask “have I (you specifically) set expectations and provided the necessary training?” This is because often a manager in their experience can see behaviors as the norm or common sense- yet, at some point they had to learn it too. If the answer is no, then the solution is obviously to set expectations and provide training. If the answer is a firm yes (see above), then proceed to step 2.
Revisit and reinforce training- When you see poor behavior and you know you have set expectations and provided adequate training then it’s time for the second step. This is best done in a spirit of curiosity and patience because as a leader you have to be open to the possibility that maybe people just didn’t catch it the first time around. This means you come at it from a position of seeking understanding. You can explain that you’ve witnessed the behavior and you recall having set expectations but are confused that they are not following through. Again, you are curious and can ask what aspects are still unclear or that they may be uncomfortable with. They may be surprised that you are actually holding them accountable so this conversation may be the “I’m serious” message they need to hear. If there’s a disconnect in understanding then you clarify through discussion and possible retraining and then ask for a new commitment. If the problem persists then it’s on to step 3
Change the conversation- When you have followed the steps outlined in this article and the behavior continues (it rarely should) then this is when the conversation turns a little more serious, yet you still approach with curiosity. This time instead of talking about the behavior previously demonstrated you now address the new behavior that’s surfaced i.e. not following through when they’ve committed to doing something. How you handle this is up to you but I encourage some good questions around why this employee has clearly committed to doing things and is clearly choosing not to follow through. If you’ve followed these tips then this is a conversation free of blame and full of accountability.
The outcome of this conversation should be a commitment to follow through on what they agree to do. There’s no need to explain (threaten) what could happen if behaviors don’t change but the next infraction is disciplinary action or termination depending on the size of your company and/or disciplinary protocols.
These steps represent a simple rule when managing people. The rule is this, we do all we can to help employees learn, grow and perform at their best. When we’ve done that and they demonstrate they are choosing not to, then we make the decision best for the business.
Afterall, nobody wants their kart shut down.
Greer Method Complete Coaching provides one on one coaching for executives and business owners. Through expert coaches, habit locking technology, and proven processes we help leaders create, manage, and sustain personal and professional performance. Jared J. Greer is the founder of Greer Method Complete Coaching. He is an executive coach, 6-time Ironman finisher, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, husband, and father of four.