Business: General

accountability: carpe diem

The last few blog entries have been linked to silent leadership in some way shape or form. It all comes down to one root – accountability. The very nature of not confronting or addressing a situation can be perceived as accepting, condoning or in some cases promoting the very behaviors we are working to squelch.

So, what is accountability? In a generic Google search, it is, by definition, “responsibility to someone or for some activity” according to Sounds simple enough. We have a definition of what we are looking at. We can easily identify the behaviors that go against the policy or not in line with some expectation. What makes this subject so hard to address then? I have found that there are two main things: clear ownership and confrontation (or perhaps confrontation based on clear ownership).

To make sure we do not set ourselves up for an issue we must use the 360 communication style to make sure that messages are conveyed, and understood. During an assignment we must make sure that we specify our expectations. Basic communication involves relaying the message, the recipient receiving the message and providing feedback to the sender and clarification from the sender or acknowledgement/affirmation.  Also, it is important that we set up measurable such as a due date and person responsible. “Next week” is vague and should not be used in many cases. Vague demands can lead to a lingering project or deadline. “End of business on 07/24/13” sets a much firmer expectation as to when the material or assignment is due.

Next we must also have the ability to confront the respective parties if the assignment is not completed on the due date. It is imperative that we follow up and follow through. The severity should be based on the individuals performances. Now that may should like I am backing off – on the contrary, I am setting up a longer term plan. If the individual is normally a star performer, see what the delay is/was. Did the person come to you letting you know there were issues? Did the individual have a legitimate reason? What is the frequency of the person’s failures to commit? In any case – action should be taken and the severity based on answers from the previous questions. At a minimum keep a record for further review if continued performance failures occur. However, if the person continues to struggle with commitments, take a step back and let the employee know where they stand. Maybe it is time to create a PIP (performance improvement plan). It is quite possible that the very mention of a PIP will create a turn around in the employee.

So, we have not discussed feedback whether it is a communication cycle on assignment setting, or review for performance. Let us take a second to examine the sense of ownership and confrontation. Take a step back and look at your group. It is important to consider the global view (the entire organization) but realize that your circle of influence and control changes as layers or other groups of the organization are added. Do the rest of your reports have similar attributes? Have you taken a second, as a leader, to question your effectiveness in setting expectations? Is it time for a group meeting, or perhaps a self evaluation (or 360 feedback) session? I have always believed with any of my reports that fail, [they] do so in part by my inability to reach them or convey the message in a functional way to his or her learning style. Granted, there are the employees that just cannot be reached and should exited from the group or organization accordingly. I have also seen some success in a workshop addressing communication and team building exercises where deadlines are a topic.

So far we have addressed the direct forms of accountability where deadlines are presented. Lastly, I want to discuss the non deadline related topics. These topics are very general but I am sure you can find relevance if you switch some topics around for your relevance. Many forms of accountability and silent leadership happen with day-to-day activities. Maybe an employee is not supposed to chew gum on the shop floor. Perhaps employees are clocking in late or telling inappropriate jokes. Maybe employees are picking their fantasy sports teams on company time… use your imagination. What do you do? If you go along with the said offense, then you are aiding in the situation. If you ignore the situation then you are aiding. Remember, the lack of confrontation is a key component in accountability. I challenge you to take the bull by the horns and deal with whatever issues you see now, in a real time fashion. If you wait too long it becomes an accepted practice and a way of culture within the organization. The longer it is accepted – the further it spreads and before you know it an epidemic can take hold.

What are you going to do? Carpe diem.


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