Accountability goes both ways

Author: 
Paul Nolan

Holding employees accountable is the key to getting the results leaders want, right? Not so fast, says Anne Grady (AnneGradyGroup.com), author, corporate leadership expert and a consultant on personal and organizational transformation. Most people want to do the right things and feel successful, Grady says. Often the problem lies in getting clear around expectations.

“Sometimes we are frustrated with people for not meeting our expectations when we have never communicated what they were in the first place,” Grady says. “What if all of this time we have been getting frustrated for something we can prevent?” She offers these tips for setting clear expectations and realizing better results:

Know what you want before you get frustrated. Many times, we haven’t clarified in our own minds what we want, yet we assume others are being thoughtless or selfish when they don’t satisfy our needs.

Clearly communicate these expectations and when necessary, ensure understanding. Simply asking, “Do you understand?” is not ensuring understanding. Whether you ask the person to paraphrase, summarize or reiterate, it is helpful to hear the other person reflect what they heard, to make sure you are on the same page.

Define your desired outcome. What do you want the end product or behavior to look like? How would you define success?

Explain what you do want, rather than what you don’t. We have a tendency to complain about the actions and behaviors we don’t like, when in reality, we haven’t explained the actions and behaviors we would like to see.

Reward the positive and coach the negative. Whether at work or at home, remember that people repeat behavior that gets attention. If your expectations are met, make sure you say thank you or show appreciation. If your expectations are not met, before assuming the person intentionally disappointed you, make sure you communicated what you wanted clearly.

“The challenge with holding people accountable is that we resist what we do not choose,” Grady says. “Getting people involved in defining expectations is key. It’s more than setting expectations around skills. It’s about setting expectations around skills, behaviors and attitudes.”