Accountability: Take It On

Hold people accountable! This is stated often throughout the business world. When the numbers are off, the emphasis is on self-responsibility. It seems everyone agrees institutionalizing accountability is a must for sustained performance success. The goal is to have each employee assume responsibility for taking the actions required for production, not sometimes, but at all times. The stage is set – business demands accountability throughout the ranks – managers are the key for implementation and sustained execution – workers need self-accountability for success. Yet implementing accountability seems to be more difficult than ever for most organizations and managers. There are two predominant reasons for this; one is complacency, the other fundamental management technique.

Take It On needs to be brief, focused and frequent. In a positive situation, a manager who is Taking It On might say, “I noticed you got that appointment you wanted set up for Friday. That is great! Why did that work so well this time? Keep that going and let me know how it continued to work on our end-of-the-week call.” This is a sound, quick approach to praise self-responsibility for following through on an intended action. Here is a sound, quick example of addressing a lack of follow through: “I noticed that you didn’t have one prospect call last week. That must be disappointing to you. I know you wanted to get that done. What happened? Okay, I get it, the time got away from you. What are you going to do differently this week to accomplish your intention of bringing new business into the pipeline? Good! How are you going to let me know what progress you are making before Wednesday?” The example demonstrates how a manager can drive self-accountability by using a mix of questioning to draw out ownership of past actions and behaviors that are needed now. Questioning is the tool of reflection and reflection is the self-accountability lever.

Many managers know how to Take It On. They just don’t do it often enough because of time management concerns. The above examples don’t require much time. They do require frequent ways to be “in-the-game.” This means taking advantage of every direct and indirect contact with an employee to find out how implementation is proceeding. Great coaches from every competitive field know frequency and timing are significantly more vital to driving accountability than just time. In sports, a timeout often lasts less than 45 seconds, yet fans expect the coach to make all needed adjustments within that time. Take It On success feeds off of brief, just-in-time feedback.

Managers who consistently Take It On develop individuals who are self-reliable and embrace accountability. That results in a delightful imbalance of more positive Take It On conversations to challenging Take It On situations. One other thing – the next time someone says, “Hold your people accountable,” you get to say, “I do!”

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