This afternoon, I tuned in virtually to the Convening Leaders Masters Series session, “Follow Me: Leadership By Design,” with John Spence, business improvement expert and author of Excellence by Design: Leadership — The Six Key Characteristics of Outstanding Leaders. Spence conducted research with more than 8,000 high-potential employees at top companies around the world to discover what people look for in a leader they want to follow.
What he found is that good employers were good at establishing accountability, and that accountability is crucial when it comes to accomplishing good work. Spence explained for the audience the specific steps leaders can take to ensure employee accountability.
1. 100% Clarity + Authority
“Ambiguity breeds mediocrity,” Spence told the audience at today’s session. If a great company has a big idea, they “remove all ambiguity,” he explained. They clearly comprehend and communicate the expectations of each project and envision what success looks like. Spence advises making the goals binary, “black and white,” and not leaving room for guessing. You should also “give people the appropriate authority to go and execute on that responsibility,” Spence said. “If you don’t give people full accountability and proper authority, it will frustrate good employees.”
2. 100% Agreement
It’s important an employee knows exactly what the employer wants, understands their resources, and agrees that the goal is reasonable. They need to accept the task and be willing to complete it before they begin. That’s why clarity and authority are so important, employees need to know what is expected of them and if it can be done. “You don’t have agreement and accountability,” Spence said, “if not authority and clarity.”
3. Track and Post
“Create a dashboard,” Spence recommended, to track a project’s progress. “If you hold people accountable for goals, make sure they know where they stand on the those goals.” Make the progress reports or charts very easy to understand and highly visible — that way employees can stay motivated and feel like their work is moving things forward.
4. Coach, Mentor, Train
“Most people see measurement as a road to punishment,” Spence said. “They think,’You’re measuring me so you can tell me where I screwed up.’” It’s the boss’ role to emphasize to their employees that “measurement means help.” It’s in a company’s best interest for its employees to remain on track, so assure them: “The second you get off track, we’ll get you training, etc.”
Spence recommends rewarding good, hard-working employees lavishly — whether that means time off, an incentive trip, or a Starbucks gift card — and properly punishing or dealing decisively with the people who are not succeeding.