Why do so many leaders throw out the word “accountability” as if it’s magical and will just make people successful? Trust me, I believe 100% in holding people accountable. In fact, I write about it, talk about it and live it out every day in my work.
The wake up call, however, is that accountability is not something that just happens. We can’t just tell people what to do and then punish them if they don’t do it. “Do this, or else…” and “My way or the highway.” are threats, not forms of accountability.
Accountability is nothing without proper training, guidance, support, development, assistance, patience and leadership. Managers tend to focus so much on “what” they need to hold their staff accountable for that they often forget “how” to actually accomplish such a thing. They forget that if they want employees to step up to the plate, they need to give the employee a plate to step up to.
When I say “a plate to step up to,” I don’t necessarily mean that there needs to be a promotional opportunity or financial incentive. I mean that we need to give people a reason to step up. We need to motivate people if we want to succeed as leaders.
The years of 30, 40 and 50 year service pins are gone. Employees are going to have more choices than ever before when it comes to jobs. With an overwhelming amount of job boards at their fingertips and websites such as Glassdoor, the future of job-seeking is going to look more like job shopping. The ball is now in the jobseekers’ court, not the employers’ court.
As organizational leaders, we need to find ways to get the most out of our people and give the most back to them. Our jobs are harder than ever but if we do it right, our hard work will pay off. We need to personalize our relationships with each employee so we know what motivates them to step up to the plate and do their best work. Then, we need to create that plate for them and help them step up to it.
I used to shop at Express simply because I liked their clothes and well, that’s all it used to take to gain my business. If I liked your product, I bought it. They’ve never provided poor customer service. Their staff is as friendly as the next store but I stopped shopping there. Why? I found something better!
I went into a White House Black Market one day and who would have known but the experience changed my life…or at least my shopping experiences. Their clothes were no better than Express, in my opinion. An associate approached me, not to see if I needed any help, which is the question most store associates ask. “Do you need any help?” is a yes or no question. At White House Black Market, they asked me what I was looking for today and how they can help me get what I’m looking for. They made me think. I had to come up with the reason I was there, a goal.
I needed some new work clothes. The associate spent about five minutes walking around the store with me seeing what I picked out. She was checking out my taste in style, my size, my color choices, etc. She then said to me, “I’m going to take what you’ve picked out and start a fitting room for you. Then, while you try these on, I’m going to continue shopping for you. I’ll have more outfits ready when you’re done with what you’ve already picked out. We’ll keep trying until you have what you need.” I had a personal shopper! Coolest thing ever and it was free! Her picks were spot on with my taste!
That’s personalization, if I’ve ever seen it! Why not do the same thing with that “plate” we need our employees to step up to? Whether you like or not and whether you believe it or not, employees are constantly shopping for jobs. Even if they are not actively seeking a job, people are dangling job postings, interview appointments and job offers in their faces constantly – LinkedIn InMail, position advertisements on every website, email alerts from Indeed, conferences and other networking events.
If we don’t personalize that “plate” that we expect our employees to step up to, we’re going to lose them and that accountability you were trying to force on them is completely irrelevant. Talk to your staff, find out what makes them tick and use that to create motivation and build accountability.
To most leaders’ surprise, employees actually appreciate accountability. They want to set goals with you and be motivated to meet them. They won’t do those things though if you’re micromanaging them, providing a negative work environment for them and giving them unrealistic expectations to work with.
What does each of your employees’ “plates” look like? Does it have money on it? Is there a career development plan on it? Does it have a learning opportunity on it? Is there some recognition or reward on it? Does it have a touching story on it? Maybe, there’s just a big smile and nice pat on the back waiting for them on the “plate,” and that might just be enough for them to step up.
Remember, though, that fair is not always equal. Motivation comes in all different shapes, sizes and methods. Either way, it has to be personal and mean something to the person you’re trying to motivate, the person you’re trying to get to step up. If that plate doesn’t have what they’re looking for, they won’t step up; they’ll step away to find a different plate to step up to.
So, are you serving up a plate of motivation? If you serve up the right plate, your employees won’t just step up to the plate but many will hit a home run for you.