If it’s ok with you, I’m just going to come out and say it: your lack of accountability is hurting your office BIG TIME.
A lot of people make excuses as to why they haven’t held people accountable. Here’s some just so we’re crystal clear on what excuses look like:
- “I don’t have enough time.”
- “No one cares about what I have to say.”
- “It’s their job and I shouldn’t have to follow-up with them about what I pay them to do.”
- “That’s why we have an office manager.”
Excuses are simply a way to avoid accountability.
But I’m willing to bet that since you’re reading this post right now, that you don’t want to be the sort of person who makes excuses.
Why Accountability Matters
Before we go into anything else about accountability, it’s important that you, your leaders, and your team understand why accountability is so crucial to success.
It’s no secret that we, as humans, loose motivation every once in awhile.
So even individuals who would normally be productive, eventually need something to keep them focused and re-motivated.
Do you have a team full of focused & motivated employees? If you said yes, then that doesn’t excuse you from holding your team accountable, but I’m willing to bet that you don’t.
Thus, you absolutely must use accountability to motivate your team, keep them focused on what really matters, and to accurately identify non-performers.
In simplest of terms, accountability is how you will get results.
Here’s a personal story of mine about what happens with and without accountability:
Before I started The Growth Effect. I spent a lot of time just thinking about it. I’m a researcher and ponderer by nature, so I have a tendency to do that indefinitely. But I can also be independently motivated. One night while talking about my business endeavors to a friend, I realized that I had been thinking & talking about getting my business going for two years!
After that realization I knew I had to force myself to sit down and just do it. Just to start somewhere.
So I made an outline. Once I reached a point where I believed the outline would make sense to others, I started to add deadlines to the tasks. This helped me take action.
But I’d be good for a week or two and then I would slowly stop working on it again.
Other things would end up taking priority or I would just be “too tired”.
Then one day, while talking to another very dear friend, we both realized that we were starting similar business models and that we both weren’t getting any momentum on our own.
That’s when she said to me, “Hey, we should be accountability partners!”
And can you guess what happened?
I got more done in just a few weeks than what I had done in two years. All because the power of accountability.
Since I respect her and want to save face I knew that every week (when I had to report on what I’ve done vs. what I said I would do) that there was no way I was going to jump on a call with her and say, “I did nothing this week.”
There is something incredibly powerful in having to lay out your actions, progress, & results to someone who you know is going to call you out on your B.S.
Not because they’re mean or controlling, but rather because they care about you and they want you to be successful.
Why You May Not Hold Your People Accountable
As you can see from my short story, if you want to see results, accountability is a very important part of the formula.
So you should be 110% on-board with ensuring that your business is a business with no-compromise accountability, right?
The truth is though, that there are real-deep-seated reasons why a person doesn’t hold their people accountable.
The biggest reason is FEAR.
It can show up in a variety of ways. Fear of having the “hard conversations”, fear of not being liked, fear of losing a friendship, or fear of what you think could go “wrong”.
But here’s the thing:
The cost of not holding someone accountable greatly outweighs any temporary discomfort you might experience when holding someone accountable.
If you don’t address your fear, you are doing yourself, your team, & your business a substantial disservice.
Overcome Your Fears
The first step in overcoming fear is to acknowledge that it’s there. If you keep denying its existence, then your mind will never be able to shift into: “Ok, I know that’s there so what can I do about it?”
It’s only when you’re honest with yourself that you are able to move forward.
The next part is to have a plan. The more prepared you are the better it will be for you. Now, I’m not talking about listing every single possible scenario.
Instead, I am talking about being prepared for the conversation that you need to have. I’ll give you that process in just a moment, but proper preparation is anxiety’s kryptonite.
The final part in overcoming your fear is practice.
Literally think about the first time you did anything. Do you remember your very first dental patient? Or what about that very first speech you had to give in your communications class? It was new so it was scary.
But what happened? The more that you did it the less anxiety-inducing it became! As they say, “practice makes perfect”.
[bctt tweet=”Great things never came from comfort zones.” username=”TheGrowthEffect”]
Tips for The Accountability Conversation
1. Start with the correct perception & mindset.
As you probably read in my other blog post about great leadership, you’ll know that I often tell leaders to come from a place of compassion.
In other words, people are only human. They make mistakes and they fail. They even lose motivation. But in spite of any short comings, I do believe that most people do not show up to work with the purpose or intention of destroying the business!
Rather, people want to do their best.
Now, what do you suppose happens if you approach a conversation from the perspective that they don’t care about their work, they’re only there to collect a paycheck, or they just plain ol’ suck at their job?
That’s right, it comes out in your delivery. It comes out in how you mentor them and how you delegate (or if you even will).
Your delivery needs to convey “this isn’t personal”.
So it is crucial that you put your own mind-set in check. Treat the person as someone you care about and as someone who you want to do well & succeed in life and at work.
If you did that it would be a completely different sounding conversation, right? So first and foremost, fix your perception & come from a place of compassion.
2. Be clear on your expectations.
Before you even begin to have a conversation with someone you need to be sure that you know exactly what you expect of them. Your expectations need to be clear, concise, & specific.
Something like, “I want you to think like me.” doesn’t cut it!
Do the prep work to be sure that the person has the tools and resources to be able to do what it is that you are expecting of them. If you aren’t sure, then that’s ok, but you will need to write this down as a question that the two of you figure out during the conversation.
You want to make sure that you are being absolutely clear on what you expect and where you want their focus to be.
3. Use S.M.A.R.T.
SMART is an acronym which stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Any action plan or goal that you set needs to have actionable specific steps. If you just say, “Do a better job.” that really has no meaning or action. But if you say, “Make 20 calls a day to all patients on this report with outstanding treatment.” Now that’s specific!
It’s also measurable. The employee could make a list of all the people they called each day, and you would be able to see if 20 patients were called daily (or if they weren’t). Using specific numbers is a wonderful way to measure because numbers don’t lie.
Attainable answers the question: does the person have the resources (time, tools, etc.) in order to complete this? Calling 20 patients a day might not be attainable if the person is only scheduled for 2 hours a day, while also being scheduled to see back-to-back patients. But it would be attainable for someone with a 40 hour work week who has/can make open areas of time.
Relevant means that the task moves the business in the right direction. Calling 20 patients a day would indeed help the business by filling up the schedule.
Time-bound is the secret ingredient in this formula because it’s the deadline. You absolutely must add deadlines to things if you want them to get done. So in our example, “Make 20 calls a day to all patients on this report with outstanding treatment. That means that by the time that we meet again next Friday you will have made 100 calls.”
4. Make it a conversation.
The biggest mistake I’ve seen in accountability conversations is that the leader does all of the talking! If you’re doing most of the talking then you aren’t learning (and most likely they aren’t either).
Your job is to ask questions and dive deep so that at the end of the conversation the person walks away with clear instructions.
If you aren’t asking questions then you’re missing the opportunity to mentor and coach in a way that is specific to them.
Questions are how you bridge the gap between telling and teaching:
- Hey, last week you said that you were going to make 100 calls, and you only made 40. Any reason why you didn’t hit your commitment? – Do those actions align with your goal?
- When can I count on you to deliver?
- What can I expect from you?
- What specific things are you going to change?
- Is there something specifically that I can do to help you move forward with ___?
People are also more willing and motivated to do something if you get them to feel like their ideas and contributions make a difference. Thus, asking them questions will give them a sense of autonomy.
Of course, you’re responsible for ensuring that you guide them down the right path of discovery. So do make sure that you are asking the right questions.
Another key to success is to help them see the value in their role. If they understand why the work they do is important to the business’s success then they will be less likely to take your trust in them for granted.
5. Ask for the commitment.
According to social psychologists, humans have the need to be seen as consistent. Once a stand is taken, the natural tendency is to continue to behave in a way that is consistent with that stand. And commitments are what can reinforce the behavior of consistency.
By getting the person’s active commitment to what was discussed, defined, and planned they will be more likely to follow-through.
So ask for the commitment by using, “Will you…?” and be sure you pause and let them answer “yes”.
Make a Culture of Accountability
The last, and perhaps most important, thing I want to teach you about accountability is that it requires an active commitment from you.
It can’t be something that is just randomly thrown into your day. It can’t be something that is only implemented when things slip into the red.
But rather, it needs to be engrained in the way that your business runs. It’s imperative that it is never compromised on. Hold your people accountable early and often.
You will most likely face resistance because accountability is hard to hear. Most people don’t like to fail, and if your culture has been one of complacency—then expect the resistance.
However, if you’re willing to push through that temporary discomfort, and stay dedicated to showing your team that accountability will help them grow personally & professionally then the payoff will be huge.
I want to challenge you to not only define what accountability looks like for your office, but you also model it for your team. This is the beginning to paving the way to a culture of accountability.
A culture of accountability will give you the business growth you’ve been after.
After all, accountability is how you get results.