Accountability: Pitfalls at the Front Line

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Accountability means receiving consequences for one’s actions, behaviors, or results. If a team member demonstrates good behaviors and results, front line leaders should offer praise and positive reinforcement. If the results aren’t what they should be, or the pace of work isn’t where it needs to be, or the behaviors are unacceptable, the leader is responsible for applying corrective consequences and ensuring there is a behavior change.

Accountability does not mean punishment; it's an opportunity to provide coaching. Share on X

If a leader doesn’t apply consequences, the employee feels no need to change their behavior. Most workers want to be held accountable and they want a culture of accountability in their workgroup. When a leader looks the other away and never provides feedback, they are missing an opportunity to motivate their team.
Front line leaders tend to worry about the employee’s reaction to their feedback. They think that the team member is going to dislike them and therefore they’re not going to work as hard. But top performers expect their front line leaders to address the marginal performers, and in turn that helps to motivate the team.

Leaders mistakenly think they need exact information.

Many leaders will say, “Well, I can’t track exactly how much output that person has done, so how am I going to talk to him about his performance?” That’s the reason why the leader walks the floor and observes production. Leaders need to trust their observations. If a person challenges them, they need to be able to reply, “I observe your work all day every day, and I noticed your pace of work is lower than what it should be.”

The leader’s observations must be converted to feedback. The primary responsibility of most front line leaders is to walk the production facility, look at the pace of work, the quality, and safety, and so on, and provide feedback to their team.

Accountability does not mean punishment; it’s an opportunity to provide coaching. Most team members will correct their actions once it’s brought to their attention. The leader should therefore take more of a coaching approach rather than a disciplinary approach.

When the coaching approach fails to generate results, the leader may need to apply disciplinary action. For discipline to be enforceable, it’s important that the front line leader keeps a record of observations and conversations with the team member. HR will then be able to back up the front line leader if the discimplinary action is challenged by the employee.

When you look the other way, avoid holding people accountable, and don’t provide feedback, it sends the wrong signal.

This is an opportunity to raise the performance of the work group, and improve on-time delivery and hitting performance metrics. Improved performance not only makes the front line leader look good, but it also helps the organization succeed. People want to win at their jobs and front line leaders need to help them win by providing feedback based on observations.

As a leader, what is your method for holding your team accountable? Let me know in the comments of this blog.

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