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Executive Officer Leadership: The SIMPLE Way of Accountability

No organization, whether it’s in the private or public sector, can flourish without having the right people in place, doing the right things at the right time. However, in today’s fast-paced world, more and more employees are expected to perform a variety of tasks, wear many hats and think outside the box. As a result, the lines of responsibility and accountability have become fuzzy.

Most fire service managers and leaders often assume their subordinates know what is expected of them. They’re then surprised when the work doesn’t get done as planned; fingers are pointed and blame is placed (most often misplaced).

As managers and leaders, it’s our responsibility to set our employees up for success. We need to define our expectations and then hold employees accountable for those results.

Now you ask, How in the world do I do this?

As I have found in my inquiries, it’s actually quite SIMPLE if you follow just six steps.

S – Set Expectations

The success of any organization comes down to one thing: how well it organizes its members to focus on and work toward the same purpose.

Your employees need to know what is expected of them before you can hold them accountable for anything. The more clearly you set expectations and goals up front, the less time you’ll waste later clarifying – or worse, arguing about – what was really expected.

I – Invite Commitment

Just because your employees know what to do doesn’t mean they’ll do it. Sound familiar?

After goals and expectations are set, employees need to commit to achieving them. Employees are more likely to do this when they understand two things:

  • How the goals will benefit them personally
  • How the goals will help move the organization forward

Once the connection is made, they’re more likely to buy into the goals and actually welcome being held accountable for the results.

M – Measure Progress

You’ll need information to hold your employees accountable. You must measure their ongoing performance and gauge whether or not they meet the goals and expectations they committed to previously. 

Goals are only measurable when they’re quantified. Measure the results, compare them to your employees’ goals and find any gaps that exist.

P – Provide Feedback

Feedback won’t solve problems by itself, but it will open the door for problem-solving discussions and follow-up actions. Your employees need feedback to do a good job and improve in areas where performance is falling short of expectations. For the most part, giving objective behavioral feedback is all it takes.

On a side note, to be effective, the feedback you offer must come from a sincere desire on your part to help or support your employee, not to merely fix him or her.

L- Link to Consequences

Sometimes employees need a little external motivation to live up to their commitments. When they struggle to reach their goals, you can help them by administering appropriate consequences.

Don’t confuse consequences with punishments.

Punishments are those things imposed on someone to make them pay for their shortcomings. Punishments don’t contribute to a solution.

Consequences, however, will guide and focus employees’ behavior and encourage them to take their commitments seriously.

E – Evaluate Effectiveness

Once your employees have committed to your expectations and you have provided constructive feedback and support along the way, it’s time to evaluate the results. Look at the quantifiable goals you set forth and determine if you were successful at holding your employees accountable for reaching those goals.

Don’t forget to go back and review how you handled the process. Always remember that you need to hold yourself accountable before you hold others accountable.

Employee accountability is a big factor in every organization. We’re all busy and wear many different hats, but don’t make the mistake of hoping your employees will figure out on their own what they should do. Use the SIMPLE method to help them and your organization achieve success.

When you put a systematic and consistent method in place, you’ll find that when people are held accountable for the work that must get done, it gets done – and then some!


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