You Want Your Team to Perform? – Then Hold them Accountable

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

When I receive poor customer service I always think, why is this happening?

Quite often it’s not the team member’s fault who is serving me – sounds strange, but unless they are the manager it’s not that actual staff members fault.

People perform where they are allowed to perform.

So who’s at fault – The Manager!! And the main reason – lack of accountability. Managers are not holding their team members accountable for their poor performance. Here’s some recent data that supports this:

In a study in Harvard Business Review, 46 percent of high-level managers were rated poorly on the measure, “Holds people accountable – firm when they don’t deliver.”  This is a staggering percentage – that’s nearly half who don’t deal with non-performance well.

Worse still a second study, this one from Towers Watson, noted that 24% of companies responding to their survey awarded bonuses to employees “who fail to meet even the lowest possible performance ranking.”  To me this result is appalling. If we reward poor performance all we get is a continuation of poor performance. What message does it send to your high achievers – I think they get disgruntled that their work colleagues who are not pulling their weight still get rewarded. Two possible horrendous scenarios can now play out:

  • Top performers will often lose their motivation and their performance drops
  • They often leave and find a job with your competitor!

These survey results show a significant number of managers not holding employees sufficiently accountable and a significant number of companies rewarding employees when they don’t perform.  An unfortunate combination from a management standpoint.

So how do you hold people accountable?

  • Firstly there needs to be a clear set of expectations that all staff are aware of. These come in the form of steps of customer service, KPI’s, and a number of various processes and company rules.
  • These expectations need to be understood by every employee – by this I don’t mean having signs all over the walls. Most staff learn these at induction training but then it’s often forgotten. Make sure that your managers are refreshing these with their staff on a regular basis. Also ensure your staff know why they need to follow these steps – if they don’t get the why, it’s so much easier for them to not do them.
  • Follow up is critical. It’s all well and good that staff know what to do, but do they actually do it. Managers much be constantly observing if the staff are following the right steps and processes.
  • Provide feedback. I always recommend that managers need to focus on what their staff are doing right, more than what they are doing wrong. Positive feedback is much easier to give and the staff love it. However if they are not doing the right thing, a manager has to address it immediately. If not they are effectively saying that the wrong behaviour is okay. Providing improvement feedback is slightly more challenging but most staff take it well if it is delivered properly. From experience in working on the job with 1000’s of staff over 95% improve immediately when provided with effective feedback.
  • Keep following up. The observation and feedback process never stops. If a staff member is not improving over time then all businesses have their disciplinary process that now needs to kick in. This sends a clear message that poor performance will not be tolerated.

If you follow the above steps you will massively improve the accountability of your team members. Your managers will be happier, so will the team and best of all your customer service will be exceptional and sales will go up. A real win-win.

Roger SimpsonRoger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Retail Solution” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service and selling skills.