5 ways leaders can maintain accountability

Leaders have the responsibility of holding team members (direct reports or even peers) accountable for their actions and commitments. It’s often simple in principle but difficult in practice because doing this means leaders must be ready, willing and able to handle conflict.

Sadly, many managers avoid any manner of unpleasantness because they value being liked more than being respected, or they overlook bad behavior when offenders deliver financial results or meet other critical targets. Both approaches do a disservice to team members who should be benefiting from proactive mentorship and honest, constructive performance feedback. Five tactics make handling conflict easier for all.

The Fix

Learning to give effective feedback is a core leadership skill. Keep in mind and practice these tactics:

1. Get Specific

Effective feedback is specific versus general. Say, “The report you turned in yesterday was well-written, understandable and made your points about the budget very effectively.” Don't say, “Good report.” Successful feedback describes actions or behavior that the individual can do something about.

2. Identify Examples

Effective feedback always focuses on a specific behavior, not on a person or their intentions. (When you held competing conversations during the meeting, when Mary had the floor, you distracted the people in attendance). The main purpose of constructive feedback is to help people understand where they stand in relation to expected and/or productive job behavior. The best feedback is sincerely and honestly provided to help.

3. Ask Permission

Whenever possible, feedback that is requested is more powerful. Ask permission to provide feedback. Say, "I'd like to give you some feedback about the presentation, is that OK with you?" Effective feedback involves the sharing of information and observations. It does not include advice unless you have permission or advice was requested.

4. Consider Timing

Effective feedback is well-timed. Whether the feedback is positive or constructive, provide the information as closely tied to the event as possible. Check to make sure the other person understood what you communicated by using a feedback loop, such as asking a question or observing changed behavior.

5. Be Consistent

Effective feedback is as consistent as possible. If the actions are great today, they're great tomorrow. If the policy violation merits discipline, it should always merit discipline. Feedback is meaningless if it is not equitable and consistent.

Keith Kefgen and James Houran, Ph.D are the CEO and managing director of AETHOS Consulting Group, a hospitality-focused human capital advisory, and the authors of "Loneliness of Leadership," the result of a three-year study of C-suite executives in lodging, restaurants, gaming and other hospitality sectors. They are also the founders of 20|20 Assess—a wholly owned subsidiary of AETHOS Consulting Group—a proprietary suite of hospitality-specific HR and leadership software for performance management. Keith can be contacted at [email protected] and Jim can be reached at [email protected].