Question of the Month: Why do managers in organisations generally not hold their people accountable?
Answer: When I have asked this question of managers, they have typically given me a list of reasons which fall into the categories of Willing (the leader lacks the courage or is conflict-averse or wants to be liked too much, or he doesn’t care enough and is prepared to tolerate less than the best especially if the results are good); Able (he lacks the knowledge/training to diagnose performance issues, or has not been taught how to have the “tough conversation”); and Allowed (the environment is not conducive to the leader doing so – there not enough time, he is too busy pursuing the result, he lacks the authority to discipline or reward, the procedures are too complex, or there is a lack of support up the line).
But a reason which is not given, and which I have observed over the years is actually the primary reason why managers do not hold their people accountable, is that the managers have not clarified and agreed what each person is accountable for in the first place. And they haven’t done so because they have assumed that their people already know what they are accountable for.
In my observation, although a lack of courage and care, inadequate skills and a non-conducive environment all play a role in not holding people accountable, the number one Accountability Thief is actually a lack of clarity.
Clarity refers to people knowing what is expected of them, what their contribution in the context of the results to be achieved actually is, and how their contribution impacts on organisational performance.
Clarifying and agreeing contribution, now and going forward, is one of the most critical enablers of contribution. Without clarity, value-added contribution is not possible.
In the words of Marcus Buckingham, “There is no such thing as a confused productive employee.”