In a recent discussion with a key leader I’m coaching, some insights on the impact of requests arose.

We’ve been talking about creating clarity for values expectations across the team he directs. We’ve delved into Blanchard’s research and experience. We’ve leveraged his personal experiences with his best bosses during his career. It has become clear to my client that proactive values management, along with performance management, consistently improves team performance, commitment, and morale.

As he’s put some of these key pieces into place with his team, his insights about the nuances of “managing by values” have been inspiring!

Holding Team Members Accountable

Once the playing field is defined by clear performance expectations AND clear values expectations, leaders must embrace a role of holding themselves and team members accountable for both sets of standards. When team members demonstrate desired values while delivering promised, high-quality products and services, that’s a reason to celebrate.

Leaders are not always comfortable with accountability conversations – that is usually because of unclear goals and/or a lack of observable, tangible, measurable valued behaviors in place. With those expectations agreed to, the leader has the ability to observe, praise progress, and redirect behaviors that do not meet standards.

Leaders need to focus on team member behaviors, not on the person. The stance to take is nonjudgmental inquiry: “Your report was due to me this morning. You agreed to that deadline. What got in the way of getting it to me as promised?” This approach does not blame. It clarifies expectations, validates agreement on the deadline, and invites discussion on what happened.

The conversation is factual, not emotional. This approach can open the door to learning what the team member was dealing with or thinking. If they say, “I’m so sorry. I got tied into Sonia’s project this morning and didn’t have time to finish the report for you,” then you can examine how they can keep you informed if the deadline will be missed. If they say, “I just didn’t have time,” you can examine if they were overwhelmed with other deadlines or if they just didn’t care about getting it to you. Learn the context of the problem, then examine how to get the player back on track.

One can even use this approach to hold bosses accountable – but that’s a subject for another post!

Chipping Away at Mis-Aligned Behavior

My client’s primary learning was that holding others accountable is a series of coaching conversations. Making a single request to change team member behaviors does not typically change the behavior. It takes coaching over time to set the context for the desired behavior and gain commitment from the player to change that behavior. My client stated, “Accountability is about coaching – not conversion!“Perfectly stated.

Here are the three “best practice” steps we outlined for accountability actions by leaders:

  • Clarify expectations  – set standards for both performance and values; define values in tangible, observable, measurable terms
  • Observe & coach players “in the moment” (manage by wandering around)
  • Manage consequences – praise both progress & demonstration of desired behaviors. Redirect when behavior does not change as desired.

What is your experience with holding staff accountable for performance and values? Join in the conversation by using the comments section below.

Learn more about my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. You can view our video on why we wrote the book, get a FREE excerpt (and automatically be entered in our monthly contest for the entire ebook), and more!

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S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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