How to Hold Others Accountable in the Workplace (5 min)

How to Hold Others Accountable in the Workplace

We have discussed the reasons why accountability is important, but it is still not easy or indeed enjoyable to hold someone accountable for poor performance or give challenging feedback. What are the best ways to actually implement accountability without harming working relationships or damaging the confidence of team members?

Jonathan Raymond – author of “Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For” suggests thinking of accountability as a dial with five settings around it. By beginning at the lowest setting, you reduce the need for implementing the consequences at the highest setting:

The settings on the dial of accountability are as follows:

  1. Mention – this means naming and speaking informally about small problems with performance. This might look like taking somebody aside during a coffee break to acknowledge that they appear to be struggling, and express curiosity and a willingness to support them.
  2. Invitation – this means inviting an employee or team member to sit down with you and looking at wider patterns that you might have noticed in their performance, getting curious together about what is happening beneath the surface to cause the issues.
  3. Conversation – this is where you go deeper and offer some mentoring or coaching support for the individual to help them understand and change habits or behaviors that are not serving them. This stage is helping the individual to build a bridge of sorts between their personal and professional development and look at the wider implications of problems at work.
  4. Boundary – this involves establishing a clear boundary around the behavior or performance of a colleague. Perhaps setting a target or making an agreement which – if not met or adhered to – will trigger consequences for the individual. This might look like scheduling a deadline for a performance review or giving a formal warning.
  5. Limit – this is where you must bring the limit to an individual who – despite the previous steps being offered – has failed to remedy the behavioral or performance issue in question. This might look like a sanction of some kind, the removal of responsibilities or even dismissal in extreme cases.

Here is a great video   (3 min) from Jonathan Raymond about how to be “More Yoda and less Superman” in our approach to helping others be accountable for their behaviors.

If the first three steps are used effectively and at an early stage when the problems first occur, it is likely that you will rarely need to progress to establishing a boundary or limit. If these earlier interventions are avoided, it is more likely that a problem with behavior or performance will escalate to a point where it can only be addressed with one of the higher ‘settings’ on the dial of accountability.