The Key to Holding Employees Accountable, Step 1: FORM Expectations

It’s no secret that cultivating high levels of personal and organizational accountability in the workplace is key to ensuring the sustained success of a business. That’s because when individuals and teams take accountability, they make a personal choice to rise above their individual circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary to achieve desired results. When employees take accountability, performance improves and the organization flourishes.

While all employees can make the positive choice to take self-accountability, it’s often much more challenging to hold others accountable. In fact, when asked the question, Do you want to hold people accountable and do you believe that you can?, seven out of ten corporate leaders say that while they are willing and committed to holding others accountable, they don’t know how.

Effectively holding others accountable for delivering on desired results is a continuous, dynamic process that involves establishing expectations, creating alignment among individuals and teams, and taking action when existing results do not match organizational goals.

Holding Others Accountable Begins With Forming Expectations

The first step leaders can take in holding people accountable is establishing Key Expectations — the “must-deliverable” expectations that will bring value and success to the organization.

It is the responsibility of organizational leaders to establish these expectations by psychologically forming them, actively communicating them with employees, purposefully aligning teams around them, and implementing a process to inspect whether or not they are being met.

How to FORM Key Expectations

The first step in establishing Key Expectations is forming and solidifying them. However, if a leader has a particular expectation in mind, how can he or she determine whether or not it is a viable and valuable expectation for the organization at large?

To ensure that a given expectation will take hold, leaders can evaluate their Key Expectations based on four qualities:

  • Framable: Is the expectation aligned with Key Results — the organization’s top three to five meaningful, measurable, and memorable topline results that define success? Ensure the expectation is actively propelling the overall vision of the company.
  • Obtainable: Is the expectation achievable? Leaders must be able to envision a clear path — from start to finish — that will lead to the fulfillment of the expectation.
  • Repeatable: Is the expectation both simplistic enough and sturdy enough to take hold within employees’ day-to-day work lives, and is it valuable enough to be applied across the organization? Leaders must elect Key Expectations that can be met again and again with positive outcomes.
  • Measurable: Is the expectation quantifiable, and what are the metrics used to evaluate its fulfillment? If leaders cannot measure the degree of success with which the expectation has been applied, they cannot create meaningful movement toward results.

The Power of Forming Organizational Expectations

Forming frame-able, obtainable, repeatable, and measurable expectations is the first step in setting the bar for accountability in the workplace.

Take this example: a call center discovered that making one initial call and two follow-up calls to every lead, every month, increased their changes of closing a sales deal by 67%. As a result, the company’s leadership team decided to form a Key Expectation that all employees make a total of three calls to each of their leads every month — what they called “3 in 30.”

“3 in 30” proved a strong, viable Key Expectation because it was frame-able, in that it supported the company’s desired results of increased sales; was reasonably obtainable; was stated concisely and precisely and thus was repeatable; and because its success could be easily quantified, and was thus measurable.

In response to the implementation of “3 in 30,” the call center’s employees began self-reporting their numbers and taking more forward-thinking action to meet (and even exceed) the expectation. In other words, simply forming and communicating the Key Expectation kick-started accountability in the workplace and generated better results.

As this example demonstrates, when leaders are deliberate in the formation and development of expectations that are framable, obtainable, repeatable, and measurable, they are able to increase individual and organization-wide accountability — and strategically position their companies for sustained success.

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