The Most Important Of Employee Engagement Strategies
Why is that so many of us in leadership positions struggle to hold others accountable? We admit we are frustrated with an employee’s performance. We share that we are disappointed in their results. Yet, we lack the discipline to make ourselves really sit down and deal with the person and the situation.
Ironically, accountability is probably the leadership responsibility we ignore most often. And it is the one responsibility our employees want most from us. It is one of the employee engagement strategies that ensures employees stay motivated, engaged and on-track.
In 2009, I was asked to deliver a keynote presentation on how to motivate employees in a down-turning economy. I didn’t want to deliver the same old information about incentive plans and recognition events. So, I heavily researched the topic of employee motivation. What I found was surprising.
More than the normal pizza party, a big bonus or an employee of the month plaque, employees are motivated and engaged by two things. First, they want purpose. Employees want to know that the work they are doing matters. They need to know they are making a significant contribution to something bigger. Second, they want accountability, both for their own personal performance as well as their team members’. They want to know what they are doing well, and where they need to improve. They expect leaders to “handle” those on the team that are not pulling their weight.
So while we may not think of using accountability as a strategy, it is honestly one of the most effective employee engagement strategies we have. Accountability leads to increased employee engagement, customer satisfaction and bottom line results. If holding people accountable is so important, why do we struggle with it? Well honestly it is pretty natural. I mean no one really likes the idea of confrontation. Delivering consequences and discipline is not something we are comfortable doing. Most of us fear that if we hold others accountable it will make us uncomfortable and ruin employee morale.
But I want to challenge you, is that true? Is not holding people accountable a way to get people to like you? Will it result in you being more “popular” with your team? Will you be more comfortable with members on your team who are not pulling their weight?
I don’t think so. In addition, sorry to be crass, but leadership is not about you. It is not about what you as the leader, think, feel or need. Leadership is about serving others. Injecting your personal feelings (either positively or negatively) into how you lead people will prevent you from ensuring those on your team from reaching their full potential. Leadership is not personal, it is a culture you create in which you support, develop, and yes, hold people accountable.
4 Employee Engagement Strategies That Ensure Leadership Is Not Personal
Here are four strategies to help you understand why accountability is a critical leadership skill, how to hold others accountable and the crazy leadership benefit of accountability.
Shift Your Paradigm
First, I know I said that leadership is not personal, but let’s start with you anyway. As a leader, you need to shift your paradigm in regard to accountability. Stop thinking of it as something negative you have to do and start thinking of it as the most positive strategy you use as a leader.
Let’s think about all the positive impacts of accountability. The employee is being told in a private and professional manner what they are doing wrong and how they need to improve. They are being given an opportunity to do what is being asked of them before any consequences are put in place. Your team members who are pulling their weight are gaining reassurance that their work matters. They know that their leaders notice and care. Also, employees gain trust knowing that under performers are not allowed to drag the company down. Most importantly, your customers are only interacting with employees that are held to standards worthy of their business.
All too often we feel there is no consequence for not holding people accountable, but there is. We hurt the employee who deserves a chance to understand how to improve. We hurt our high achievers and put their jobs at risk. And ultimately we punish our customers by allowing them to be cared for and serviced by under-performers. So start there, shift your paradigm, and embrace accountability as the kind way to lead.
Lay The Groundwork
Once you understand how important accountability can be, you need to make sure that your team members understand what they are being held accountable for. In other words, you need to lay the groundwork. You need to ensure that every member of your team is well-equipped with the knowledge of what you most need from them, and that they have the tools and skills they need to do the job. When we lay the groundwork, we truly take the “personal” out of accountability. By laying the groundwork, you have given your employees the choice whether they want to do the job or not. They have what they need and whether they excel or engage is really up to them.
Such a simple step, but so important. With the groundwork laid, you need to take action. Reward those employees that are excelling. Confront, discipline and apply consequences for those employees that are not. I call this the cosmic band-aid. If you handle it swiftly it will come off easily and painlessly. But if you put it off, it is like ripping the band-aid slowly. We all know that ripping a band-aid slowly can re-open the wound. The need for people to be held accountable is not something we can put off. It will hurt everyone in the end. So we need to take action to handle it immediately and often.
Last but not least, accountability needs to be consistent. One set of rules for everyone, and a leader who applies them evenly. We need to create a culture of understanding by laying the foundation. Then, we need to be consistent with our actions. Once we have done that, we develop an environment of trust. A culture where people feel safe because they understand the rules. They understand the expectations and the consequences. It is then that they will understand how to succeed.
So yes, accountability is one of the most important employee engagement strategies that we have. Accountability is one of those rare leadership strategies, that when used effectively everyone comes out on top. Our customers get better service. Our productivity and bottom line results increase. Our employees are more engaged. And as leaders we gain respect. Sure, not everyone may like us. But we will have a team full of people that believe in us and respect us. And at the end of the day isn’t that the true measure of a leader?