Performance and Accountability-Two Sides of the Same Coin

Design and Value

A coin has two sides: the obverse and the reverse. The Obverse, or heads, side of a coin focuses on the primary design of a coin while the Reverse, or tails, side focuses on its value. Design and value – two sides of the same coin.

I think of performance and accountability in a similar way. A performance system provides the primary design for a path to success. While an accountability system focuses on the value of effort, outputs, and contributions made along the way. Together, performance and accountability produce great synergy.

The synergy between performance and accountability produces a greater effect on results than either does separately.

Mitzie Adams

Direction and Momentum

On the design side, performance is a forward moving process. It gains momentum on its path from performing tasks to achieving goals. On the flip side, accountability requires a pause, a reflection, and sometimes a reverse to assess progress and allow for corrections. Managers should welcome regular pauses and consider them opportunities to hold themselves and their employees accountable for things that matter most.

Managers are reluctant to take time out for reflection. I think the reluctance to pause stems from two sources: physics and behavior. First, there is a good chance that Newton’s Laws play a role, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon.” In our case the performance body is moving along just fine so get out of its way. Second, a large portion of the population subscribes to the behavioral axiom, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” It takes a concerted effort to overcome such inertia.

Accountability Check Points

Managers, routine accountability checks provide opportunities for you to assess:

  1. The effectiveness of your communications
  2. The clarity of your expectations
  3. The quality of your employees work products
  4. Overall progress toward the goal
  5. If corrections are in order

I agree with Melissa Raffoni who stated that “a lack of accountability” is rarely intentional and…

More often, it’s the result of an underlying issue, such as unclear roles and responsibilities, limited resources, a poor strategy, or unrealistic goals. This is why leaders who default to a plea for accountability often end up hitting a wall and feeling even more frustrated.

Melissa Raffoni, Does Your Team Have an Accountability Problem? HBR Article, February 2020

All the more reason to build accountability checks into daily, weekly, and monthly routine conversations, performance reviews, and coaching opportunities. Learn more about how to hold people accountable for high quality work products in my “How to” series beginning with How to Achieve Workplace Accountability – Introduction.

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