Is accountability one of George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words”?

In most cases it might as well be. We often fail as leaders by not holding staff accountable to what is expected of them. This holds especially through for difficult and low performing employees.

High performers tend to be accountable to self, team and organization without much direction or need for redirection.

As leaders, we need to be accountable to high-performers in two ways;

  1.  We need to acknowledge their work ethic and likelihood of going above and beyond often.
  2. We need to build our own behavioral capacity to address low/middle performers out of respect for our high-performers.

I suggest that you do the following over the next few weeks to bring accountability to another level of performance by focusing on your own actions in regards to managing expectation of your staff members.

  1. Seek out your high performers and acknowledge to them that you have a propensity to go to them first to get the job done causing them additional stress. An apology might be in order for always going to them rather than holding low-performers accountable. Additional recognition might also be a great effort towards re-recruiting your most talented staff. Don’t take high performers for granted, they might not always be there for you in the future if you don’t treat them with utmost respect and feed their intrinsic values. You should meet with them at least quarterly to ensure that you meet their expectations.
  2. Seek out your middle performers and provide clarity in expectations by outlining very specific terms and measures. Draw them into the process and value their opinions. If possible, align them with a high performer. Middle performers tend to be influenced by both the low- and high performer. As their leader, it is your responsibility to inspire them to become next level performers. You will need to meet with your middle-performers as least monthly to ensure they stay on track.
  3. Seek out your low-performers, this is likely the most difficult task requiring your behavioral capacity to be on high alert. This is the conversation that most fail to have. I have seen it all too often and have fallen victim to this myself on numerous occasions.  It’s time to earn your paycheck, roll up your sleeves and build up the courage to have a difficult conversation. Approaching this as a Positude Leader, you will be in the mindset of “managing up” rather than “managing out”. I like to built a psychological contract with my low-performers by setting the expectation and outcome measures and then ask them how they are going to contribute in a measurable manner. Let them stew on it overnight and by morning have the second part of the conversation. Most often they will have selected a few things that they can do, if necessary, make minor adjustments and agree to their contribution. This is your first step in recovery however this will require weekly meeting to ensure staff member stays on track. Give it a try…. you can always start the “manage out” process if  it fails.

None of this matters if you are not accountable to self. Are you following through on your promises or performance expectations? Do a little soul-searching over the next week to see how you can be more accountable to yourself, team and organization.



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