The Ninth Commandment Of Strategic Planning: Hold People (Including Yourself) AccountableUntitled
Jacob M. Engel Forbes Councils Member
Most people I speak to say it’s very hard to hold people accountable and therefore they either don’t do it or they do it half-heartedly and then complain about not getting results. My response? Inspect what you expect, as what you expect gets respect!
There are many reasons why it’s hard to hold people accountable, but in order to make accountability work in an organization, we must recognize why it’s difficult. Here are a few common reasons:
1. Conversations around accountability can be uncomfortable and facing uncomfortable emotions is one of the four fatal fears. Nobody likes to make others feel uncomfortable and understandably so. Most people want to be liked.
2. Most people, by nature, get defensive when we criticize or complain about something they did or didn’t do, making us feel defensive as well.
3. We also tend to catastrophize when someone holds us accountable, thinking we have failed (another fatal fear) or, even worse, that we might get fired. This, in turn, elicits even more emotions.
Ironically, becoming defensive when someone wants to give you feedback is a much bigger problem than accepting the criticism and taking ownership of the problem itself. Becoming defensive plays into what psychologist Carol Dweck calls the "fixed mindset vs. the growth mindset." Organizations appreciate those with a growth mindset and accepting feedback is one of the traits.
This is something that can also be addressed in your accountability meeting. Use softer language, such as, "You might not be aware, but you become defensive when I give you feedback and I say this because I want to help you grow."
Here are a few techniques for holding people accountable and reducing, eliminating or at least mitigating their anxiety or fears:
1. Follow the DR GRAC process.
I’ve mentioned this in a previous article on hiring, but DR GRAC stands for desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability and consequences. The idea behind this is that you agree upfront (when hiring) to the goals and objectives you expect from the individual. Many business owners are reluctant to share their goals, and I consider this to be a huge error.
I recommend sharing the overall company goals and objectives and how their goal fits into the company’s overall goals. Some call it key performance indicators, or KPIs. Recently I’ve also seen it referred to as objective/key results, or OKRs, by many tech companies. Regardless of what you call it, the key is to set clear expectations. The clearer the expectations, the less room there is for confusion and misunderstandings.
Then, the most important part is accountability — both in terms of when you will be reviewing and what you will be reviewing (KPIs/OKRs). Another part of accountability is behavior. You may have heard the saying, “People get hired for skills and fired for attitude.” It’s not only about how well the person performs that counts, it’s also about how well they behave, i.e., teamwork, attitude, work ethic, time management, etc.
2. Use a regular meeting to create "soft" accountability.
I recommend meeting weekly and making sure everyone reports on their goals and the obstacles to those goals, so you as the executive can ensure things are not falling between the cracks and know what they will be working on the following week.
You can also use a document that I recommend called the 15/5. Meaning it takes about 15 minutes to fill out and five minutes to review. Each Friday, your team should submit this document which outlines the following:
• Five “big rocks” or priorities they are working on.
• Obstacles, if any, that might make it difficult to achieve these priorities.
• Five things they will be working on the following week.
To summarize, your responsibility as the leader is to create both a transparent organization and an accountable one. Use the weekly meeting as a tool to achieve both!