Accountability Leads to Innovation: 5 Requirements for Setting Clear Expectations

It may seem counter-intuitive to some, but a culture of accountability can lead to a culture of innovation. Our research has shown that successful leaders make their expectations very clear, hold themselves accountable for follow-up, and recognize others for their accomplishments.

If leaders make their expectations clear and describe the desired outcome, then others feel pride in achievement.

When others see how the request fits into the big picture, it inspires them to want to get it done and do more. More than just engagement, clear expectations and accountability generate employee commitment.

Masterpiece Exemplar

Everyone knows that we provide them with the details of what they have to do and if they do those things, they will be successful. There are no gray areas. But this isn’t just about being nice to their employees – leaders make their expectations very clear and hold their staff accountable for this high level of performance. They give them a way to do their job that happens beautifully and naturally. They have confidence in their employee’s abilities and because of that, set high expectations for them. This makes it possible for the environmental services department at Fairview Hospital to achieve even greater goals than the staff had ever dreamed was possible. They are proud of their efforts and success, and it shows.

Excerpt from: Masterpieces in Leadership: Cases & Analysis for Best Practice

If you make your expectations clear, others will take pride in achievement and be inspired to do more.

Unclear Expectations

When others do not follow through with what is expected of them, leaders should resist the urge to question, “Why did that happen?” Asking ‘why’ only leads to blame. A culture of accountability is not about blame and it is not about getting angry. It is about getting people committed to do what you have asked them to do. If they are not following through, it means the expectation is not clear.

Instead of asking why, leaders should stop, slow down, and ask, “How did I let that happen?”
  • What did I ask the other person to do?
  • Was I clear?
  • Why was it important?
  • Was it a reasonable request?
  • Did the other person understand the “what,” “why,” and “how?”

Clear Expectations

There is a distinction between having an expectation and setting a clear expectation. Setting clear expectations leaves no uncertainty around results. As leaders become clear with their expectations and others follow suit, a culture of accountability will emerge. Consider the following 5 factors to be clear about your expectations:

Is the expectation:
  1. Relevant? Is it consistent with the big picture?
  2. Reasonable? Is it realistic with current resources & capacity?
  3. Straightforward? Is it simple & clear enough to understand?
  4. Measurable/Observable? Will progress be visible?
  5. Scheduled for inspection? Is there a date/plan for reviewing progress?

Questions to Deepen Thinking

How is holding others accountable working for you?
What are the consequences of not following up about expectations?
What would happen if you started recognizing others for meeting expectations using ongoing regard?

Credit

Connors, R. & Smith, T. (2009). How did that happen? Holding people accountable for results the positive, principled way. New York: The Penguin Group.
Kegan, R. &. Lahey, L. (2001). How the way we talk can change the way we work: Seven languages for transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Pelote,V. & Route, L. (2007). Masterpieces in leadership: Cases & analysis for best practice. Boston: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

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Ongoing Regard: Boost the Power of your Thank You

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One response to “Accountability Leads to Innovation: 5 Requirements for Setting Clear Expectations

  1. Pingback: Coaching Moments: Creating Opportunities to Motivate | Masterpiece Leader Blog

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