Accountability for the Unaccountable

We all have to deal with the people who are unaccountable for their actions. These people always want to focus on everything but themselves and their actions. When they are the cause of their problems they are always looking to deflect responsibility. Why are you picking on me? Why don’t you hold others accountable? How come you don’t talk to them about this?

People who are unaccountable like to control the conversation in order deflect and distract. So what’s the best way to get them focused and working on correcting their performance?

Own the Conversation

You need to own the conversation. When you are talking to somebody who likes to deflect responsibility don’t let them. Keep them focused on their actions and what is in their control. Don’t allow them to sidetrack the conversation and turn the focus to others. When they start going off the tracks and putting the focus on others take them back to what they are doing. Remind them that the only thing that they control is their own actions. Don’t discuss the actions of others. Keep the conversation focused on your concerns with helping them improve their performance.

Stick to Facts

Another habit of people who don’t take accountability is that they like to turn the conversation to rumor, supposition, and hearsay. Present them with facts and keep taking them back to facts. Show them exactly how they are falling short of expectations by presenting them with clear examples. If you have production metrics use them to demonstrate where goals are not being met and what the targets are for acceptable performance. Whatever it is you use to track performance use that as your framework for discussing performance and keep that your focus.

Good record keeping and tracking of performance is key to dealing with a person who doesn’t take responsibility for their actions. The more specific your facts the harder it is for them to argue and disagree with you. Be as specific as possible when presenting information. Do not give them any room to side track the discussion.

Avoid Emotions

Too often people who avoid accountability will resort to emotion appeals. They focus on how they feel. Don’t feed into this and don’t let them pull you into their emotional pit. Keep the discussion focused on your concern for their performance and how you want to help them improve. It isn’t about how you feel about them personally, it is about how their actions are affecting the team and the organization. Help them to understand that it isn’t personal and that you are concerned about their success.

Focus on the Outcome

Finally, keep the person focused on the outcome – what changes are needed and what the future state should look like. Have clear expectations with reasonable outcomes. Tell them specifically what you expect from them with very clear examples. If you have production goals or metrics use those as the objective expectation for performance. If it is teamwork – then give clear examples of the types of actions and interactions that are expected. Make sure to set up specific dates for following up and reviewing  with the person how they are doing in meeting expectations. Be sure to have goal dates for changes and reasonable consequences for failing to make changes.

As the manager you need to own the conversation when it comes to dealing with people who are unaccountable for their actions. By presenting facts that deal with the individuals performance and avoiding emotions you will be in a better position to keep the conversation focused in a productive and positive manner to bring about change. Setting clear expectations, goal dates, and consequences allows you to put limitations into place that force the person to focus on their performance. You can’t make them change or take accountability but you can help them to focus on the right things and keep them from focusing on the exterior to their own actions. Instead of allowing them to remain unaccoutable you must make them accountable.