Leadership: Why Leaders Struggle To Hold People To Account

Holding people to account is one of those areas that leaders often find challenging. Maybe it is because they have pre-conceived ideas of what it means to hold people to account. It certainly is not about being nasty or a bully.

  • The first key to holding people to account is to be clear about what you expect of them. Too often expectations are vague or poorly stated which means people are left guessing. State your expectations in terms of results or outcomes.
  • The second key is to be clear about how performance will be assessed. This might be using some sort of personal balanced scorecard or setting key milestones to be achieved if the person you are leading is working on a project or may even include the results of client feedback.
  • The third key is to be clear about how you will let people account for their performance. This might be very formal but could just as easily be a fortnightly meeting where you follow up on progress, issues and actions being taken to address them as well as offering support where needed.
  • The fourth and final key is to make consequences of not delivering clear. An important point here is to make a clear distinction between the one in a while failure to deliver and the repeated non delivery of what was promised. You only really need to bring the consequences to the fore when you are continually being promised but not seeing results delivered.

The truth is most people are happy to be held accountable for delivering results provided you have involved them, made expectations clear and support them in delivering results.

Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements helps accountants and health professionals to become highly effective leaders and managers. You can sign up for his free audio e-course leadership success at www.goalsandachievements.co.uk.

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

Leave a Comment:

Greg Waddell says 25 April 2011

Thanks for these practical tips. On the last one, I just want to make sure I understand what you’re saying. Are you saying that the manager need not make the consequences clear until there is systematic non-performance? In other words, is that something you reveal only on an as-needed basis?

Duncan Brodie says 26 April 2011

Hi Greg

Thanks for your comment. You are spot on with your interpretation of the final point. We all don’t deliver what we hoped from time to time. However, if it becomes a consistent pattern it is obviously something that needs attention, otherwise some of those who are delivering will start to notice. In many ways failing to follow up gives the message that promising but not delivering consistently is okay, which clearly it is not.


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