It’s one of the most common management gripes: Our employees aren’t accountable. They’re not meeting deadlines. The quality isn’t there. They’re not completing the amount of work they need to get done.
Our lives as managers would be so much easier if only our staff would deliver when they said they would, produce what’s expected of them, and meet the quality level needed.
But could it be that we’re actually contributing to our own headaches?
Work Accountability Demands Clarity
Work accountability is essential. It’s simply not effective, efficient, or realistic for the manager to have to check in at every step of the way. But when we, as managers, get frustrated that our employees aren’t holding up their end of the bargain, the first question we ought to be asking is: “Did I really articulate my expectations?”
Employees can only deliver on the expectations as they understand them. If we’re not doing a good job of explaining what they are and providing clear, objective criteria related to how success will be evaluated, then we’re doing everyone a disservice.
You can’t tell people to stay on budget and expect them to meet that requirement if you don’t tell them what the budget is. That’s why work accountability has to start with you: What, specifically, do you expect? How will you measure performance?
Managers tend to think their expectations are extremely clear because they are internal to them; but you have to go outside yourself to test that clarity. This doesn’t have to be a complicated process. In fact, one of the best ways to clarify your expectations is to start by writing them down. This forces you to get clear with yourself first so you’re better able to articulate what you really want to your employees.
Greater Visibility Leads to Greater Work Accountability
So you’ve made yourself clear. The expectations are set. There’s still one more critical step you need to take. Going back to the budget example, if you tell your team the budget is $X, but you never give them a way to track or gauge how much has been spent, how can they be sure they’re meeting your expectation to stay on budget?
If you’re going to evaluate employees on certain data, then that data needs to be visible and accessible to them throughout the process. Accessibility comes through your immediate feedback as well as through tools like dashboards that document activities and track specific data points.
When the information is accessible to them, your employees will be better equipped to manage themselves and be accountable for their work. High visibility and just-in-time access provide the line of sight they need to track their performance to expectations and make adjustments in the moment as needed.
Quick Tips to Increase Work Accountability
Want to make your own life easier? Start by making it easier for your employees to manage themselves. Here are some quick tips to build clarity and visibility into your process:
- Get outside yourself: Verify that your expectations are clear by articulating them and writing them down.
Identify the metrics and criteria for success, making sure they’re as objective as possible.
Communicate expectations and success criteria in such a way that employees will understand and buy into them.
Provide near real-time feedback on the metrics and criteria.
Make information readily available to all employees, using dashboards and other tools that are easy to access and understand.
Ultimately, if you want greater work accountability, you have to step up to your own role in helping your staff be accountable.
Ben Snyder is the CEO of Systemation, (www.systemation.com), a project management, business analysis, and agile development training and consulting company that has been training professionals since 1959. Systemation is a results-driven training and consulting company that maximizes the project-related performance of individuals and organizations. Known for instilling highly practical, immediately usable processes and techniques, Systemation has proven to be an innovative agent of business transformation for many government entities and Fortune 2000 companies, including Verizon Wireless, Barclays Bank, Mattel, The Travelers Companies, Bridgestone, Amgen, Wellpoint and Whirlpool.