Dear Crucial Skills,
How do you respectfully hold people accountable? We have clear standards for care, but some staff (and leaders) treat them as though they are optional. They aren’t! How do you hold someone accountable to the standard so they still feel capable, empowered, and motivated?
Leader at a Loss
Your question holds the key to influencing your people. You asked, “How do you hold someone accountable to the standard so they still feel capable, empowered, and motivated?” People do things for two reasons, because they want to (motivation) and because they can (ability). To hold people accountable to the standards, target both their motivation and ability, but first get clear on exactly what you want them to do.
Clarify Vital Behaviors
Clarify and emphasize the behaviors that will bring about the desired outcomes of care. Make it clear to people not only what they need to do, but also when they need to do it. Clarity is the precursor of change. Also make sure the standards of behavior truly lead to the results you want. Ask yourself, “Have I seen others do this behavior, and have they achieved the results? Is there data to suggest this behavior will generate the results we want?”
Address Ability First
Not only is it ineffective to try to motivate people to do things they are unable to do, when you enable people first, motivation often follows.
Three questions to ask:
Do people lack the knowledge or skills to do the desired behaviors?
If the answer to that question is “Yes,” it is important to invest in their development. If their lack of skill is keeping you from results, then their lack of skill is your problem. Look for ways to model the behavior, hold short training sessions, or give them the opportunity to evaluate their own performance.
Are others keeping them from being able to perform the desired behavior?
If so, assign mentors, coaches, and peers to provide examples, training, and feedback.
Is the environment preventing people from doing the desired behavior?
In many cases, our ability is impacted by our environment. Consider arranging spaces by moving things closer or farther away. Adjust the flow of data, provide the right tools or technologies, streamline any processes, and implement cues or reminders in key moments and key places. The goal should be to create an environment where it’s easier to meet the standard of behavior.
Address Motivation Second
With strategies in place to improve ability, look at three ways to make it motivating.
Connect to Moral Values
When people see that the desired behavior relates to their values, it changes how they feel, which impacts how they act. In reality, we can’t motivate others. We can, however, foster motivation by helping people see the connections between what’s important to them and the behaviors we need them to do. A key strategy to help others experience the implications of the behavior is to take them on a field trip to see the behavior in action or to tell them stories that create a vicarious experience. In other words, demonstrate how the behaviors relate to their values. Highlight the human, moral, or ethical consequences of the behaviors in question.
Leverage Social Influence
“Who you’re with is how you act.” Look for ways to lean on those with social influence. You can’t lead alone. Partnering with employees who already have influence will increase your efforts to bring about the desired behaviors. Get them on board first, then enlist them in your cause. Because people tend to conform to what’s normal, find ways to make the standard behaviors “normal.” Pair people up to foster accountability.
Use Rewards Sparingly
Often when striving to change behavior, leaders lean too heavily on rewards, prizes, promotions, or raises. These efforts rarely produce lasting behavior change. The key is to use this approach sparingly and only after you have worked to connect to moral values and leveraged social influences. It’s also important to choose rewards that are rewarding. Are the chosen rewards something people value? Will they truly incentivize the behavior? Finally, connect rewards to the behaviors and not the results. Not doing so may lead to unwanted consequences.
To summarize, make sure the standards are clear, specific, and lead to your desired outcomes, and think abilty first and motivation second. True leadership is about empowering others to become leaders themselves. Holding others accountable is that kind of empowerment.
I’d love to hear from readers how you have helped people meet standards of behavior. Let us know in the comments.