How To Hold Employees Accountable, Step 3: Align Employees Around Expectations

When individuals and teams take accountability, they make a personal choice to rise above their individual circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results. As a result, performance improves, employee engagement levels rise, and organizations are positioned to meet and surpass their benchmark goals.

Of course, making the personal commitment to take accountability is one thing — but holding others accountable is another. Even strong, purposeful leaders often struggle to hold their employees accountable. Our survey revealed that while some 70% of corporate leaders say they want to and are willing to hold their teams accountable, they struggle to do so because they are not sure how.

As we’ve detailed in the first two installations of this series, the initial steps toward holding employees accountable are rooted in the establishment of Key Expectations — the expectations that employees must meet in order to add value and contribute to the success of the organization. Leaders must first FORM their expectations as Frameable, Obtainable, Repeatable, and Measurable. The second step is establishing clarity around those Key Expectations by effectively communicating their expectations.

However, leaders cannot stop there. Truly holding employees accountable for delivering on desired results requires that leaders not only psychologically form Key Expectations and communicate what they are and why they are important to employees. Holding employees accountable requires that leaders take proactive measures to align team members around these expectations and introduce a system to inspect whether or not they are being met. In this article, we will focus on how leaders can effectively achieve alignment around Key Expectations.

The Importance of Creating Alignment Around Expectations to Take Accountability

A lack of alignment may be the result of confusion, disagreement, or worse, chronic disengagement in the workplace. Confusion and disagreement can occur if leaders have not effectively and precisely communicated the what, why, and when of a Key Expectation. Meanwhile, disengagement — which indicates that employees do not feel connected to or motivated by their everyday work — has become a global crisis in the modern labor force.

Without strong alignment around Key Expectations in the workplace, the likelihood that these expectations will be met sharply decreases. In turn, performance suffers and results cannot be achieved. For these reasons, creating alignment is a critical responsibility that leaders must undertake with a positive, principled approach.

How to Create Higher Levels of Alignment in the Workplace

Aligning teams around Key Expectations is a multi-step process. First, it’s necessary for leaders to measure existing levels of alignment by Scoring It. Then, they must take a closer look at how they can effectively boost alignment among employees by Evaluating It. Finally, they must practice strong communication skills in order to Resolve It. Here’s how the process should look:

  • Score It: Creating greater alignment around Key Expectations requires that leaders first obtain a real-time pulse on existing levels of alignment within their teams. Using a ten-point scale, ask each employee how they would rank their level of alignment around each Key Expectation. Do they feel committed to the expectation? Do they believe they can meet the expectation within the established time frame? Encourage honesty and vulnerability — employees should not answer “10” simply in the hopes of pleasing the leader, but should feel comfortable expressing their true feelings about each expectation.
  • Evaluate It: Engage in an open dialogue with employees in order to better understand any gaps that exist between the current level of alignment around Key Expectations and the desired level of alignment. If employees report low alignment around a certain expectation, find out why they feel this way. Is the organization full of confused, disagreeing, or disengaged employees? Strategize ways to lift every employee’s level of alignment around Key Expectations to a “10.”
  • Resolve It: Finally, in order to raise both individual and team-wide levels of alignment around Key Expectations, leaders must employee the same strategies they used to communicate the expectations in the first place: get clear around the what, why, and when. Ensure that every employee knows what they must do personally to improve alignment, why it is critical for them to become more aligned with expectations, and when they are expected to achieve a higher alignment ranking. After the agreed-upon deadline, leaders should re-score every employee’s alignment levels on a scale of one to ten in order to identify whether alignment has been achieved.

Understanding the Relationship Between Key Expectations and Organizational Success

Leaders who psychologically form their Key Expectations and effectively communicate those expectations to all employees create powerful alignment around those expectations. In turn, they will be well-poised to take a pulse on their organization’s progress toward meeting expectations.

By following these steps, not only do leaders succeed in setting and managing critical expectations, but they implement a quantifiable system for measuring progress toward desired results. When all employees take personal accountability for meeting Key Expectations, they drive the achievement of topline results.

With our tried-and-true Leadership Builder curriculum, leaders can master the art of setting and managing expectations in the workplace and learn how to elevate employee morale, close performance gaps, and cultivate a culture of accountability that promotes better year-over-year results. 

Related Stories

Learn More

Which type of culture yields 316% revenue growth?

Jessica Kriegel

Learn More

Storytelling and the L&D Connection

Learn More

The Virtual Layoff and Cultures in Flux

What Can We Help You Find?