Vol X: Accountability

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The final question I ask in the article, Setting the Stage is whether accountability exists within your organization, ensuring your employees feel fairly treated.

Accountability is being responsible for what you are expected to do and for the actions you take. Holding yourself and others accountable ensures that everyone fulfills their responsibility, and that there is fairness, making sure actions are applied consistently and without prejudice.

Understanding what you are accountable for.

The exact responsibilities will naturally vary based upon a persons role, but at a high level it breaks down into two categories:

Individual contributors or team members are responsible for their work and for supporting the rest of their team.

Leaders are responsible for the work of their entire team as well as for how they hold their team members accountable for their actions.

Understanding the expectations of one’s role sets the foundation for accountability. When your team members understand what you expect from them and what is expected of their peers, you’ve set the stage for creating consistent accountability. My article on Clarifying Expectations has some examples of things to consider when setting those expectations.

The next step, once expectations are clear, is to ensure your team members understand how they will be held accountable. There are two sides to accountability, most people think about the negative accountability – what happens when someone does not meet expectations; there is also a positive accountability – what happens when someone does a job well, or exceeds the expectations.

When employees do not meet the expectations that you’ve clearly defined, they should understand what that means in terms of coaching, feedback, and discipline.

For more ideas about positive accountability, I’d refer you to my last two articles: Motivation Through Recognition and Creating a Recognition Program.

The most important thing is that accountability, positive or negative, needs to be clearly communicated and applied consistently.

To evaluate your own accountability process, consider these questions:

  1. Does everyone have clear expectations of what their role is and what you need from them?

Without clear expectations, you have no foundation for accountability. Remember not to assume here, not everyone approaches situations the same way.

  1. Do you give feedback to employees? Do other leaders in the organization provide feedback? Do team members have an avenue for providing peer feedback?

Self-awareness is difficult for most people. If you are not giving feedback on performance, an employee can think they are doing something well, even if you do not agree.

  1. Do you have a consistent method of tracking employee performance? Is an employee’s performance transparent to them?

In environments where an employee may be supervised by several different leaders it is important that any coaching or feedback is documented so other leaders are aware and meaningful follow up can occur without being redundant.

  1. Is retraining or job shadowing available to help build performance for those who need it?

Not everyone gets it the first time. Having an opportunity to retrain employees after they’ve had some on the job experience might help an employee who didn’t quite connect the lessons of training with the real world environment.

  1. Are the steps that you take with one employee the same for all employees?

To be fair to all employees, the same steps should be taken, regardless of the person. For example, if with Mark you give several coaching opportunities and many chances but with Jane, her mistakes result in write-ups you are being unfair. That’s not to say that you need to write Mark up right away, but are you giving Jane the benefits of your time and feedback?

Employees want accountability to be consistent. By ensuring accountability is fair, employees can trust your actions and comfortably perform at higher levels.

Please join the conversation…

 

Vol III: Clarifying Expectations

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If you are following this blog then you know that so far we have discussed the importance of defining and communicating our “True North”, and we have examined the employee experience by asking 6 important questions. Let’s look at the first of those questions:

Do employees have clear expectations of what you want from them?

Do your employees know:

  • how to deliver the customer experience you envision?
  • what you want them to say?
  • how you want them to act?

Here’s an example:

There is a clothing store I frequent and when I enter the store a sales associate welcomes me. Sounds great, right? However, during most of my experiences there, the sales associate is somewhere stocking or folding and maybe even behind a display. So, when I walk in and hear someone welcome me and I can’t see that person, I feel confused instead of warmly greeted.

It may sound insignificant to include a training detail like: “when greeting, be someplace where the customer can see you”, but the sales associate is probably being told that their priority is to keep the displays neat and folded. Ultimately the sales associate is attempting to greet every customer, but are they doing it so that your business is getting the impact, or experience you were hoping for?

We often expect everyone on the team to “get it” but the truth is only some people have the natural ability to make others feel valued and important. For the rest, we have to be very clear on what that looks, sounds, and feels like.

Take a moment to review this list of face-to-face behaviors and take the time to determine if you have clearly defined these for your team:

  • Initial greeting –
    • What does “welcome” sound like? Formal or casual? Is it scripted or can the employee ad-lib?
    • How close should they be when they make eye contact? 10 feet away, 5 feet away, as soon as the customer enters the establishment, etc.
    • Is there anything else necessary to convey the experience you want your customers to have? Body language, facial expression, tone of voice?
  • Initial Interactions
    • What do you want to communicate in the first contact? Specific information or just the general culture?
    • Should the employee initiate the communication, or start by listening and responding appropriately
  • Customer Satisfaction
    • Do your employees know what they are empowered to do for a customer?
    • If a customer has a specific request beyond what the employee is empowered to do, how should they handle it?

Take the time to define these behaviors for your employees and you can save yourself the coaching and correcting and the business will benefit from the clarification.

What are your thoughts… please join the conversation.

 

 

SE II: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone

609-employee-satisfaction-billboardI am lucky to call some amazing women my friends.  On a recent evening out, one of these amazing friends shared her story of leaving a company she was at for 10 years after being recruited within her industry.  On her last day she was told she is on the short list for a promotion and they offered her more money to stay.

Another smart woman at the table, a lawyer, shared that when she left her firm in NYC to move to Chicago, again after being recruited by another firm, she was offered junior partner to stay.

So why didn’t either of these companies make their appreciation for these employees known prior to them being wooed by another?

Do you feel appreciated at work?  Are you having conversations about your next steps?  Are you having conversations with your employees (if you have direct reports)?

You may think your team will stay with you even without praise or advancement… but when there’s a knock at the door, what do you think they would do?

So, employers: Make it a practice to give regular feedback to your employees.  Be honest, even if it’s not all good, chances are by building awareness you’ll get better performance.  Also, be fair in terms of compensation. If you are willing to pay more to keep someone after they tell you they are leaving, would you be willing to pay to show your appreciation for their continued loyalty (before someone else comes calling)?

 

Vol II: Setting the Stage

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In my last article, we discussed the importance of clarifying expectations by defining and communicating the company’s “true north”, the directional vision your employees can look to in order to better understand performance expectations.

Clarifying expectations and communicating them effectively is the start to a successful employee and customer experience.  It is equally important to create the right employee environment.  The time we spend at work often outweighs the time spent with friends and family.  To have a team work together successfully they should feel valued, respected, recognized, and there must be trust.

Over the years, I’ve heard leaders say things like, “they get paid to do that, why should I recognize employees for doing their job?”, and “we don’t have time to do anything extra, it’s just too busy”, and worse, treat employees inconsistently – unintentionally playing favorites.

From the outside looking in these statements seem ridiculous – how can a leader think this way?  It’s really not that surprising… when we specify our goals in terms of getting the job done, money, time, and efficiency, our leaders respond to those priorities.  For those leaders who have trouble multi-tasking and have trouble with empathy, how we treat our co-workers can take a dead last in comparison.

Building a strong employee culture, environment, and experience is not easy because it may require change, but understanding where you are today and where you need to get to is a good first step.  In determining if the employee environment has a strong foundation, you may have to do some corporate-soul searching:

  1. Do employees have clear expectations on what you want from them?
  2. Do your employees have trust in your leadership team? What is the relationship between leaders and frontline employees?
  3. Are conditions for employees valued – should they be improved or innovated?
  4. Do employees feel recognized when they do a good job?
  5. Do employees feel empowered to help customers? Do they have the tools to do so?
  6. Does accountability exist so that employees feel like everyone is treated fairly?

These are some of the questions you can ask yourself and leadership team to determine if you have a strong foundation for your employees.  If you are a customer-facing (frontline) employee, what would your responses be to these questions about your workplace?

What are your thoughts… please join the conversation.