How to Hold Your Team Accountable – the First Step

How to hold your team accountable - first stepTrudy ran her hands through her hair and frowned.

“I would think Shawna would understand how things work. I mean, isn’t it obvious?”

Trudy owns a gym. She’s committed to building a people-friendly atmosphere where clients and trainers are committed to fitness, health, and mutual respect. In particular, she wants to avoid the showboating and meat-market atmosphere you encounter at some gyms.

She’d recently brought in a new trainer, Shawna, whose behavior did not match the gym’s values or mission.

Now Trudy was frustrated because one trainer threatened to undermine the positive atmosphere she’d worked so hard to build. Her brand was in jeopardy.

They Don’t Know

This is a frequent problem every manager encounters at some point: you think your expectations are crystal clear, but then people don’t live up to them.

Then you get frustrated and say things like, “Why don’t they get it?”

Here’s the reality: they don’t know.

Pardon the pun, but people are ‘tele-pathetic’ (not telepathic) – that is, they can’t read your mind. If you want them to know, you have to tell them.

It’s unfair and unrealistic to hold people accountable for expectations you haven’t clearly articulated and ensured they have the skills to meet.

Accountability is only possible when you have clear mutually understood expectations.

How Do You Know They Know?

Just speaking expectations isn’t enough.

Have you ever finished a meeting, asked the group “are there any questions” – only to hear silence in return?

That silence doesn’t tell you that people understand. It just means they don’t want to ask a question.

You don’t know that you’re on the same page until you hear your people articulate what’s going on for them selves. In our new book, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul, my coauthor Karin Hurt, and I call this a “check for understanding.” This one step can save you days, weeks, even months of frustration and wasted time.

When a conversations concludes, say something like, “Okay, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. What are the next three steps we’re going to take?”

As people share the answers, you’ll know whether or not they have the right idea. If not, it gives you an opportunity to clarify.

Your Turn

Remember, all accountability starts with clear, mutually understood expectations. You can’t hold anyone accountable until you’ve ensured this first step is completed.

When Trudy shared the gym’s values and philosophy with her new trainer, Shawna decided it wasn’t a good match for her. She liked places with a different type of energy. That’s fair – but it was only possible once Trudy was clear about expectations.

How do you make sure you and your team are consistently on the same page?

David Dye Leadership Speaker Employee Motivation

David works with leaders to get results without losing their soul (or mind) in the process. Have David to speak at your next event or corporate training: Email today or call 303.898.7018!


  • Ely Chan-Hosea CPA

    It goes both ways, the new employee needs to find out if they are a good fit and the manager should find out sooner than later!
    Wasted time, money, energy and damage to the existing team’s morale when U have a misfit!
    At interviews I always make sure that the final candidates understand without any doubts that if they don’t think they can work with me, then they should consider finding a job elsewhere. After all, the new hire will spend more time at work than with their family.
    Worse yet, when a business flushes about $5 million down the toilet, when the leader fails to communicate his expectations and the development team has to start all over again after 12 months.

    February 10, 2016 at 9:02 am
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