The 7 Most Common Accountability Excuses and How to Avoid Them

“Not my job,” “No one told me,” and other accountability excuses cause more damage than you might imagine, says consultant Rick Lepsinger. In today’s Advisor, his tips for avoiding these “tickets to slide.”

No one told me the project was due Friday!”
“But Bob’s the team leader—it’s his job to see everyone knows when priorities change.”
“It’s not our department’s responsibility to pick up the slack when another department drops the ball.”

If these tickets to slide are rampant at your workplace then you have an accountability problem, says Lepsinger, president of OnPoint Consulting, and author of Closing the Execution Gap: How Great Leaders and Their Companies Get Results (Jossey-Bass, 2010).

Accountability avoidance “diminishes execution and individual and team performance, and creates and reinforces a culture of blame. While everyone is busy pointing fingers,” Lepsinger says, “deadlines don’t get met, work remains below standard, and customers stay dissatisfied.”

Accountability Dodge Angers Top Performers

“Plus, the accountability dodge negatively impacts your top performers,” he adds. “They’re often asked to clean up the messes left by poor performers, which wears them out and builds resentment. Meanwhile, their counterparts, who are less accountable and less willing to take responsibility, enjoy a lighter workload—which is, in effect, a reward for poor performance.”

So why don’t we consistently hold people accountable for results? There are several reasons. In fact, Lepsinger believes there are seven assumptions and misunderstandings—he calls them “Tickets to Slide”—that contribute to this phenomenon.

You know your managers could do a better job if they were trained, and now there’s a convenient and reasonable way to get it done

Ticket to Slide #1: ‘This Too Shall Pass’

The “wait and hope” syndrome assumes that poor performance will improve on its own over time. “They’ll learn,” we say in the (often futile) hope that we’ll never actually need to have a conversation about meeting commitments and delivering results. Or, we assume that people know what they should be doing, and that this was simply a blip on the radar screen. “I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt this time,” we say. Problem is, “this time” often turns into “next time,” followed by, “What? It happened again?”

Ticket to Slide #2: ‘They Know How I Feel’

You just responded in your “I’m dissatisfied” voice and put on your “I’m very disappointed” face. That should do it, right? Well, maybe not, says Lepsinger.

“Most of us like to assume that sending indirect messages and subtle signals has not only made our dissatisfaction known but clarified what needs to happen differently—and how it needs to happen,” says Lepsinger. Yes, it’s a “highly unlikely outcome,” but many of us choose it to avoid a more direct discussion of the problem and the need to take responsibility.

Ticket to Slide #3: ‘It Will Turn into an Argument’

Even if the other person is not difficult to work with, it’s a safe bet that he or she will likely have a different point of view.

“Many leaders are certain that these types of uncomfortable conversations will turn into arguments,” notes Lepsinger. “They rationalize that it’s better to let it go and avoid the conflict. But while that may be easier in the short term, in the long run you may find that the situation has snowballed into a problem that is vastly more difficult to deal with.”

Despaired of ever getting your managers and supervisors trained? It isn’t easy to fit it in—schedule-wise or budget-wise

Ticket to Slide #4: ‘I Made My Expectations Clear. (I Think …)’

One reason you may avoid holding others accountable is that you have not set clear expectations. Either you haven’t clarified what you want done, what “good looks like,” or when you want it done. Without this base, don’t be surprised when you encounter more than one point of view or when conversations turn into arguments.

“Remember: Everything you ask of your employees can be either measured or known,” says Lepsinger. “Even qualitative outputs such as customer service or quality have components that we use to know when they have been done well. Those are the things for which we can set expectations and monitor and measure.”

In tomorrow’ Advisor, the rest of Lepsinger’s tickets to slide, plus an introduction to a unique library of leadership training materials.

About me
Creative-Enthusiastic-Positive and People oriented HR Professional. My 10 years in HR as an assistant, then generalist, and now manager, have allowed me to grow and develop professionally and as a leader. Currently I am working as a Sr. Human Resource Consultant with few Start-ups. I am helping them Strategically in building best HR Practices. I have experience in below areas of Human Resource – Talent Acquisition (Recruitment & Selection), HR Policies & Procedures, Talent Management (HR Generalist), Performance Management System and Training & Development.
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