Holding colleagues accountable and clarifying expectations go hand in hand

As a consultant, how do you go about holding employees accountable to follow through on what they say they will – tasks which are essential if the intervention process is to work?

Does it have to be inevitable that holding someone accountable leads to conflict? If that is what you believe then it will probably follow that you don’t actually hold people accountable at all and rather become a ‘conflict avoider’.

To be frank, dealing with accountability is a core management responsibility. As a consultant, to be able to hold people accountable is something that needs to be addressed at the start of the relationship when expectations and parameters are established. You may not always like it but you have to do it – if you don’t then in all honesty you are not fulfilling your contract with the client.

The most common reason for an individual not delivering is that the objectives were not clear at the outset – accountability becomes much less of an issue if expectations are clear and agreed and checked up on regularly. I would add a further tip to this – even when the objectives and timescales are clear, it is well worth having a discussion to identify the potential barriers that could come along and which will prevent achievement on time. It is also worth making it crystal clear to people that a ‘no surprise’ policy is one that is preferred; in other words forewarn in advance of the deadline if it is not going to be met.

I worked in one consultancy where the MO was payment on results – weekly targets were set, delivered and discussed and payment authorised. Where there is a reliance on client employees to perform any part of the tasks needed to deliver the end results, then the rules need to be clear and adhered to.

Do not underestimate the support that you may need to give to employees at the outset in order that you get your results at the end. If they knew how to do it well, they would already be doing it. If you have been brought in because of the skills and specialisms that you have, then you should expect to offer some coaching and support to the client team.

Only when you are sure that you have addressed these in advance can you hold them accountable. It makes for a much easier life if people know what to expect.

Penny Whitelock FinstLM Crystal Clear Business Solutions

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