Accountability: The blueprint to improved employee engagement

Accountability in past management practices was more aligned with the old “Command and Control” methodology, which could be severe and demoralizing. We’ve probably all had managers essentially try to create an organizational dictatorship with this style, including one former boss of mine whose interpretation of accountability was an unfeeling, “You are the anvil and I am the hammer.”


Pretty inspirational, right?


Can you imagine how that played out to those who worked for him, even back then?


In today’s work environment however, this style of creating accountability isn’t sustainable. If those practices do manage to produce results, they are usually very short-term at best. More importantly though, they would eventually in result in lower trust, lower productivity, increased cost, poor customer service, and high employee turnover, to name just a few of the elements that drive a company’s value.


Research conducted by the Gallup organization has long made it clear that a highly engaged workforce needs talented managers, especially made clear by this finding, first emphasized in First Break All The Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman”How long the employee stays, and how productive they are while there, is determined by their relationship with their immediate supervisor”


They discovered that the core of a strong and vibrant workplace could be measured in the answers to the following six questions, to which our five steps of accountability perfectly correspond.


Can you answer these questions fully? Positively? How strong is your leadership competency when it comes to creating accountability?  (See attached Chart)


To that end, let’s break down the five steps to figure out how you can deliver and implement accountability in your organization with leadership competency. As we explore these steps, take a look at how closely the concept of accountability meshes with the six questions that Gallup proposes to be the measure of a strong and vibrant workplace.


STEP # 1: The individual being held accountable must know precisely what job he/she is charged with performing.

Leadership has to make sure that the current job description reflects the technical skills and the performance skills (values and behaviors) required for success on the job. Too often in our practice, we do not see the key values and behaviors clearly defined, which is only to the detriment of your organization.


Matching the right behaviors and values will most definitely align with successful performance on the job. Once these are spelled out, the manager must be able to communicate clearly what they are to the employee and how they are to be demonstrated.


STEP # 2: The individual assigned a responsibility must have the capacity to do the job.

This step has a two-fold approach to success. First, ask yourself if the employee actually has the materials and equipment they need to do their work right. Then assess if there is someone in the organization who is able and willing to broaden the employee’s capacity through development.  If these questions don’t solicit an automatic “yes”, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.


Through regularly planned on-job observations and employee demonstrations, leadership must be able to assess the person’s technical and performance skills and evaluate what training and development is necessary to shore up any skills gaps.


STEP # 3: The individual assigned a job must understand and agree with the manager’s standards for an acceptable piece of work.

In this step, it is critical that the manager communicate his/her standards of acceptable performance and also give proper recognition when the employee’s work meets and exceeds those expectations.


In clearly explaining what those standards are, the manager should take the opportunity to explain his/her commitment to the employee’s success by accentuating their strengths and working with them to support an area of developmental opportunity.


By keeping the standards clear you’ll not only build a positive work environment, but also develop a much more accountable workforce.


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