How to Hold People Accountable When You’d Rather Eat a Worm

Holding people accountable isn’t fun. In fact, it can just plain suck, as “I’d rather eat a worm” suck. But stay in management for long, and it’s inevitable. Not to sound pessimistic but someone is going to need a gentle reminder to do the job they were hired to do. While not fun, the sooner you have the conversation the better. It becomes even more difficult the longer you wait.

Look, we all want to be liked. The fear of confrontation raises your blood pressure, makes your hands sweat, and worst-case scenario thinking jumps into full effect. What’s really the worst that can happen? The employee gets mad and quits because you asked them to do his or her job? Is that really so bad? If they weren’t holding up their end of the agreement, why hold on to them?

The fact of the matter is that if you don’t hold other people accountable, you aren’t holding yourself accountable to your own responsibilities. When one person doesn’t perform, it creates a ripple effect. You and others have to pick up the slack. Then someone else notices one employee isn’t working, and then they start slacking off. And then, someone else and someone else. Suddenly, you’re left holding the whole failed project wondering what went wrong. The answer: You would rather eat a worm then do your job. 

So let’s jump into accountability. 

Let’s start by agreeing to hold one another accountable. Not you and me, but you and your team. Think of accountability as a partnership. As a team and one-on-one with each member, come together and identify individual responsibilities. Be clear in your expectations. Outline the team’s, yours, and each employee’s responsibilities. 

An article in Entrepreneur lists 6 actions you can take to hold your employees accountable. They include:  

  1. Follow up when you say you will
  2. Be consistent
  3. Hold people accountable for both actions and results
  4. Expectations can not be negotiated
  5. Put it in writing
  6. If they continue to fail then fire them

You need to be open to their  critique as well. Accountability should not be merely a top-down strategy. Hear why this Navy Seal says the top-performing organizations create a culture of “upward management and upward leadership.”

Find out what individuals need from you, as management, to be successful. Set goals with your employees, defining how behaviors impact results. Let the team know you are committed to their success. 

Accountability doesn’t just happen. It is a process that is necessary before, during, and after every project. Make sure you take the time to have regular one-on-ones with your employees. Set SMART goals and implement small daily goals, gradually building up to the final end goal. Keep everyone up to date and be clear about each step of the process. If you are not being accountable in your own day-to-day responsibilities then you can not expect it in your team. As the leader, you must model the behaviors you desire from them. 

If you struggle with accountability, then be honest with your team. Let them know this is one of your weak points and ask them for advice. Give them the opportunity to help you make a game plan, holding you accountable for holding them accountable. Start implementing the upward leadership that Navy Seal Brent Gleeson says is vital for creating a strong work culture. 

Holding people accountable doesn’t have to be as miserable as eating a worm. In fact, when you do it right, it builds relationships, strengthens projects, and leads to victories worth celebrating. So put that worm down and go talk to your team.

The team at the Lynch Law firm is prepared to assist you in employment accountability with regard to the law, business strategy, best practices, and your company’s culture.  Contact us today to learn how we can support you. 


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