Building Trust and Performance: The Power of Being Held Accountable

Too often, people are not held accountable when they are managed. People often think of it as confrontational, but if we don’t do it, how can we ever hope to make things better? In some companies where I’ve worked, things are run so well that the leader is the only one who is ever held accountable.

Now whilst I believe that overall the leader is accountable, each and every member of the team is accountable, or at least responsible, for their part and as such, should be held to account.

There are a couple of good reasons for this, the first is if we don’t know who is accountable for what, how can we ever give reward or recognition for a job well done?

Secondly, if that job is not well done, how can we provide the right feedback, to the right person, in order to see improvements?

Without the right level of accountability, we can’t.

If we truly want to see changes in performance, then we need to break down accountability to the lowest levels, provide transparency into the performance, and set the expectation levels that are required for the job.

Often when this has been done, I have seen it empower teams, they now have an area which is clearly within their responsibility, and they can take ownership and pride in the results that they generate.

In many companies, and in some countries, they shy away from this approach, they see it as a potential opportunity to name and shame.

But if we shy away from highlighting poor performance, then we also shy away from highlighting good performance, which is not good for the morale of the high performers.

When assigning accountability to the lowest level possible, I don’t see it as an opportunity to name and shame, I see it as a positive step where we are looking to give people the opportunity to be measured and to give them the opportunity to improve. In my experience, this has always been seen, ultimately, as a positive thing.

It all depends on how you go about implementing it.

My approach is always the same, when you first start to measure something you always find that it doesn’t usually meet your expectations. But this is just a bedding-in phase, and we should be clear with our teams that we are using this period to learn where we need to provide support and assistance, and that this will not be negatively perceived, not unless it continues for months, in spite of support provided.

It’s a clear message that the performance isn’t good enough, but for now its ok, but as we progress it needs to improve.

Most teams want to improve, everyone comes to work looking to do a good job, it makes work fun and enjoyable, which is much better than the alternative.

Usually after a period of 3-6 months, you will start to see an improvement in the teams’ performance, and where you see one team doing well, and one team struggling you can always set them up as buddies and get them to share best practises.

This way we can look to get each and every team performing at a high level, and when everyone is performing at a high level, the results can be outstanding.

As a Leader, don’t be afraid to hold people accountable. However, when we do this we must ensure that we provide them with the tools to be successful.

It is also good to remind them, that whilst they are accountable for a small part, you are accountable for the overall success, so you share a common interest in them being successful.

Taking this approach will help build trust, and ultimately will help drive performance to the level.

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