Employees must be held accountable

by Linda Galindo

employees interactingIt’s never easy to tell someone she’s not doing a good job. It’s uncomfortable to ask someone why he didn’t do what he said he was going to do.

Before you do either, know what you’re going to say.

Here are three effective steps to take as you prepare to hold an employee accountable:

1. Review the agreement you made with the person. Did you make your expectations clear? Did the other person agree to the work, or did you tell her she should or had to? Did you overlook unmet agreements in the past, which might have led the person to expect you would overlook it this time, too? In what ways did you contribute to the poor results you have to address?

2. Identify the problem. Is it an unmet deadline? Low productivity? Sloppy work? Where is the gap in performance that you want to discuss during a conversation about accountability? Prepare to give specific examples.

3. Schedule a time for your conversation. Don’t do it when you’re in a hurry or the other person is running off to a meeting.Find a quiet, private place where nobody will overhear or interrupt your discussion.

Here are four guidelines for your conversation:

1. State the purpose of the conversation. Let the person know that you are not there to place blame or find fault. You want the meeting to be constructive rather than combative. Focus on mutual benefits: Let’s figure out what happened so the project will be a success. That’s what’s important to both of us.

2. Compare what you both agreed to with what actually happened. Do this without using the word should. Shoulds are all about blame. Instead, focus on facts and What Is, not What Should Be. Explain how the person’s actions affected you and others. This is also a good time to own up to your own role in the problem.

3. Listen to the other person’s response—without interrupting. If you listen patiently, you’ll probably learn what went wrong. Tip: People who refuse to hold themselves accountable very often pretend to be confused or even unaware of the things you are holding them accountable for. Don’t fall for it, but hold your tongue until the other person has had her say. Don’t jump to conclusions, but ask questions if you need clarification.

4. Make a new agreement—one that is perfectly clear—and move forward. High performance and accountability revolve around clear agreements. Ask the other person to suggest ways to rectify the situation, and clearly state the consequences if the new agreement isn’t met. Talk about how to avoid the same problems this time around and in the future. Invite the person to summarize what you talked about and write it down.

Linda Galindo is an organizational consultant and a nationally recognized speaker. She is author of The 85% Solution, Jossey-Bass. Visit www.LindaGalindo.com.