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Managing Accountability: 7 Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now

Posted by Rick Lepsinger February 10, 2015


“No one told me I needed to get your approval on this.”

“I was too busy picking up the slack for someone else, so I couldn’t get my part of this project done on time.”

“She should have been more clear about what she expected from me.”

Excuses like these create a culture of accusation where people are too busy placing blame to focus on the root cause of problems like missed deadlines, poor customer service, lack of teamwork, or subpar performance.

This is particularly true for managers who do not hold people accountable consistently. Without accountability, a team cannot effectively execute its strategy. This is especially true in a virtual setting where leaders must often hold people accountable who they don’t see. In a matrix environment, many times leaders need to foster accountability from team members who do not report directly to them. Moreover, it is much more challenging to monitor performance virtually. Whether you’re managing accountability in a virtual team or one that’s co-located, here are 7 excuses you need to stop making now:

1. “Things will get better if I wait out the storm.”

The “wait and hope” syndrome assumes that poor performance will improve on its own over time.  “They’ll learn,” we say in the (often futile) hope that you’ll never actually need to have a conversation about meeting commitments and delivering results. “I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt this time,” you say.  Problem is, “this time” often turns into “next time” followed by “What? It happened again?”

2. “It was obvious I was dissatisfied.”

Subtle hints of disapproval or dissatisfaction aren’t enough to convey to your employees how you feel about a particular situation. Be direct. Vocalize what you are unhappy with and why. Make it clear what you expect the outcome of your conversation to be.

3. “This isn’t worth arguing over.”

The rationale that it’s better to let differences in opinion or discrepancies in an employee’s behavior go unaddressed rather than confront and possibly spark a tough dialogue does not work for management. Your job is to be proactive about resolving issues before they become larger and to challenge your employees to become dynamic thinkers.

4. “My staff must know what I expect.”

If you assume you made yourself clear without knowing for certain, you can’t confidently hold team members accountable for their performance. Leave nothing to chance when it comes to outlining your expectations. When you must address someone’s behavior or progress, you’ll have a foundation from which to stand.

5. “I don’t want to lose top performers.”

Don’t allow your expectations to be devalued by top performers who feel above the rules. Managers tend to give leeway to these individuals because they consistently meet or exceed goals, but in doing so they send a negative message to the rest of the team — as long as you perform well, your behavior doesn’t matter.

6. “I don’t want to be a micro-manager.”

The most effective managers empower employees by showing they trust in the employee’s ability to make decisions. However, in order for this trust to develop, managers must observe employee performance to ensure it meets expectation. This is not micromanaging; it’s responsible guidance. When done properly, monitoring can become a constructive activity between leaders and employees to help both groups learn and grow as professionals.

7. “I’ll just do it myself. It’s easier that way.”

Taking on extra responsibilities instead of entrusting those responsibilities to your employees will take time and energy away from your ability to manage. What’s worse — you aren’t holding your employees accountable for their performance, which makes you complicit in the poor performance cycle.

Regardless of the type of team you’re leading it’s important to remember three techniques that can ensure team members follow through on their commitments. First, clarify actions and expectations. Next, establish a timetable for completion. Finally, set checkpoints to ensure important milestones are being met.

OnPoint Consulting specializes in helping companies manage accountability to execute strategy more effectively for 21st century teams, which are increasingly spread across the country or even across the globe. To learn more about managing accountability on a virtual team, watch our webinar.

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Topics: Enhance Execution, strategy execution

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