Thought for the Week: You Can Hold Behavior Accountable

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else. — Benjamin Franklin

I've had more than one occasion in the last few weeks to talk to leaders about the issue of measuring behavior. It's easy enough to figure out if somebody is hitting their numbers or getting their job done according to some pre-defined agreement as to what their output should look like. It's often more difficult when we're talking about our beliefs regarding how somebody should behave. As one leader said to me yesterday, "How do I hold him accountable for being a butt???"

The answer is fairly simple, but it requires some patience and work on your part as a leader. If the Rude Behavior issue is a current one, you have to sit down and reflect on what, EXACTLY, is the behavior that is causing the problem. "You're being a butt," isn't particularly informative to the recipient of that feedback, and it's not measurably specific. What is it exactly that is defining this person as a problem?  In this case, it might be that his tone of voice was dismissive to a customer. It might be that when he should have been engaging the supplier in a more detailed conversation, he cut her short and simply walked away. It might be that he isn't answering his calls until they are convenient for him.  We have the capacity to be a jerk in many diverse ways!

Once you have forced yourself to identify the behaviors and not allowed yourself to say, "Well, I know it when I see it," you'll find that you can usually isolate three or four things that are really causing the problem.  And it is those things that are the problem. You can't demand that I be a satisfied employee, but you can demand that I act professionally with my peers and shareholders.  But that might mean that you have to describe for me exactly what I'm doing that is not professional.

That is the main point. You can hold me accountable to behaviors where you have a clear definition and clear expectations for performance.  This changes the conversation from "you have to stop being a jerk" to "you have to stop ignoring your suppliers," or "you have to stop making negative comments around our clients." And then you add a clear consequence. In that way it is no different than holding employees accountable to any other job performance metric.

 So, yes…behavior is part of the job. And many times, behaviors are more important to successful outcomes than technical expertise.  You have to be willing to make them part of your performance discussion, but if you do, you'll find a much easier path to reinforcing the behaviors that work and redirecting those that don't.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply