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The Secret Needs of Highly Accountable Employees

Hiring accountable people is the key to success for any business, but their accountability is only part of the equation. Here’s the secret to getting the best out of the best people you’ve hired.

 

 

Any great team will be made up of people who hold themselves accountable and who are willing to be held accountable for delivering projects, tasks and numbers. But if you have built a team of accountable people, does that really mean your work is done?

I look around at our team at RESULTS.com, and we have great people who commit to their numbers, deadlines and responsibilities. They’re accountable for delivering on these consistently, and they do, but we still follow clear processes and rhythms to ensure that accountability sticks.

Why?

As Stephen Lynch puts it in his book Business execution for RESULTS, we sometimes “let the urgent drive out the important.”  So, despite our good intentions and plans, disruptions still occur in our day. Phones ring, e-mail notifications pop up and unplanned visitors drop by. These things get our attention so that we can get them out of the way and because they are the ones making the noise.

But they are rarely the activities that will add the greatest value to our organisation.

Meeting Rhythms

Our weekly rhythms include daily stand-up huddles, weekly one-to-ones, as well as weekly team meetings to ensure that we are following through on our priorities and reviewing any blockages that leave us in danger of missing our deadlines. We are expected to have identified one key commitment for any project or Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that is in danger of falling behind. 

Focus on the Numbers

Since we’re target and goal-driven, we have certainty regarding our expectations. There are no grey areas; we know whether or not we are performing as a team. Regular reviews of the numbers ensures that we are focused on our priorities and that we put the urgent but unimportant in perspective.  

Setting strategic-level KPIs aligned with our corporate priorities and cascading through our daily work ensures that everybody is accountable for effective activities that clearly contribute to these strategic priorities. It clarifies conversation around how we can all influence our business results.

When we connect the day-to-day to a few key strategic numbers, work becomes meaningful. That’s the key driver for high performers. When people know their work is meaningful, see that it’s valuable, and understand how they are contributing to team success, then accountability soars.

Top Performers Want Accountability

Your best performers want to see results delivered across the board. They are delivering and they want to know that the work they are doing is adds to the overall long-term performance of the business. 

In our process, management regularly checks to make sure that they have the resources they need, and when they meet their standard, it reinforces the importance of their work. Of course, they expect transparency to know that everybody is being held accountable for delivering on their commitments. That way, asking tough questions when people are in danger of not hitting their numbers sets an expectation for high standards.  

It also makes recognition of performance more desirable and meaningful because it’s based upon a basic tenet of fairness.

John Spence, author of Awesomely Simple says, “your lowest performing employee sets the standard of acceptable performance for the whole team”. Transparency around performance can be a cultural shift because it reverses that and lets your top performers set the standard. They will thank you for it -- and overall performance will improve.

Accountability Smokes Out the Issues

When we go off track we ask each other, “What’s going on here? What are the blockages?”

We know we have people who are accountable, so if we aren’t hitting the targets we ask tough questions. We give issues nowhere to hide. The radical transparency we practice ensures that discussions are robust (and sometimes uncomfortable), but they smoke out the issues so we can deal with them.

High performers know that these discussions will be hard and that resolving the issues can be difficult. But you’ll have more success by taking them on when you know the discussion won’t go away. Performance improves and people feel satisfied that they are contributing successfully.

Practice Radical Transparency

High performers are prepared to have their commitments discussed openly, are prepared to 

hold difficult discussions, and want these processes to be transparent and open.  

Transparency also encourages collaboration because people from different teams and with different perspectives are more willing and able to venture a solution.

Transparent performance display on a company dashboard such as RESULTS.com creates the fairness around performance that accountable people look for. It drives cross-functional input and discussion that helps resolve challenges faster and better.

Sure, you need to have a robust recruitment process to ensure you are hiring accountable people. But then you need to deliver the environment where they can thrive.

Holding everyone accountable in a transparent way is equally essential for running high performing teams. What tactics do you use to ensure that accountability is unavoidable in your organisation?