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8 Tips for Holding Team Members Accountable

Bob Whipple June 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

The key to leadership is to create an environment in which people do the best they can because they want to do it. When team members know it is clearly in their best interest to give their maximum effort to the skin care facility, managers don’t have to crack the whip as often. Following are eight attitudes or behaviors of leaders that can foster a culture where holding people accountable is a precursor to a feeling of celebration instead of a sentence to the dungeon.

1. Be clear about your expectations. It happens every day. The boss says, “You did not file the documents correctly by client; you totally messed up.” Then, the assistant says, “You never told me to file them by client, so I used my initiative and filed them by date.” Holding people accountable when the instructions are vague is like scolding an untethered horse for wandering off the path to eat grass.

2. Be sure of your facts. If you are going to accuse someone of sloppy work, make sure it was done by that person.

3. Be timely. If there is an issue with performance versus stated expectations, bring the matter up immediately. If you wait for a couple of days before bringing up the issue, it tends to cloud and confuse the person who did not meet expectations.

4. Be kind. Always apply the Golden Rule liberally. If you had a lapse in performance, justified or not, how would you want to get the information? Keep in mind that some people are more defensive than others, so if you like your feedback straight from the shoulder, tone it down when dealing with a particularly sensitive individual.

5. Be consistent. If you are a stickler for certain behaviors, make sure you apply the discipline consistently. Always avoid the appearance of playing favorites. Recognize that, as a human being, you do have differences in your attitudes toward people, but when holding people accountable, you must apply the same standards across the board.

6. Be discrete. Embarrassing a person in public will create a black mark that will live for a long time. If there is an issue of performance, share the matter with the individual privately and in a way that upholds the dignity of the person.

7. Be gracious. Forgiving a person who has failed to deliver on expectations is sometimes a way to set up better performance in the future. Get help for individuals who need training or behavior modification. People cannot be allowed to continually fail to meet expectations. Corrective measures should be based on the severity and longevity of the problem. One caveat: Gracious behavior cannot be faked, so be sure you are calm and have dealt with your own emotions before speaking to an employee.

8. Be balanced. There is nothing written on a stone tablet that says all forms of accountability must be negative. In fact, most people love it when someone holds them accountable for all the wonderful things they have done along the way. If accountability is viewed as both a positive and a corrective concept, then much of the stigma associated with the word can be removed.

Holding team members accountable is a great concept if it is used in a consistent, kind and thoughtful way. Try changing the notion of accountability in your work area, and you will see a significant improvement in your culture.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc., an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He is also an author and can be reached at 585-392-7763 or

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