A Guide to Holding People to Account

How Do I Hold People to Account?

Date Posted: 01st September 2021

How Do I Hold People to Account?

How do I hold people to account? Well there are lots of different ways in which you could people to account. Some ways work better than others, it depends on your preferences and depends on the person that you’re holding to account. It also depends on the situation.

Here is a really simple way which has worked well for me.

If I catch somebody, not behaving as per my expectations, let’s say they’re breaking the rules or they’re not doing something very well, not following a process, not meeting an objective, something like that. I assume that I have failed THEM in some way. I’ll start by assuming that it’s my fault. For me, this is really important because as much as I don’t like blaming anyone, if I am going to blame someone, I’ll start with me. I’ll blame myself first.

In all of my training, whether it is in the classroom or the online video course, (IOSH Managing Safely, leadership training, or our online Managing People Effectively course), there is this theme of personal responsibility. As far as I’m concerned, the manager is responsible for the performance of their team. And if the team isn’t performing, or if a person, an individual, isn’t performing, it is first and foremost the managers fault. And even if it isn’t directly the manager’s fault, it’s still their responsibility to sort it out.

And I think it’s really useful to start with this default position of: “I have failed you rather than you failed me:, and you can use this idea when holding people to account.

So how would this work?

For example: let’s say you caught somebody not wearing a hard hat. You could start by saying: “when I delivered the induction training last week and you were there, I don’t think I was particularly clear on the requirements for PPE, and I don’t think I explained the rules regarding hard hats very well. And I probably didn’t make it clear to you that our expectation is that we all wear hard hats at all times when on site”.

Now, what’s going to be the result of this? What’s the reaction going to be?

Well, it depends. What’s likely to happen is that the person themselves will take responsibility for their performance.

You see, what you’ve just done is that you’ve led by example, by taking responsibility for their performance, they kind of feel obligated to return that favour and take responsibility themselves. So the chances are they’ll say: “No. You were perfectly clear and I’m very sorry. I forgot. It won’t happen again”.

You can always follow up with one of my favourite phrases: “can I count on you to wear your hard hat at all times in the future?”

The answer is nearly always YES or NO.

But what happens if you catch them again?

They may take responsibility initially, but then you catch them for a second time. You could follow up with: “last week, I spoke to you about hard hats, and I clarified the expectations on hard hats, and I can see you’re not wearing it again”.

You could ask them WHY. It’s a perfectly valid question to ask. But if you wanted to go down the personal responsibility route, you could phrase a question this way instead: “what do I need to do in order to make sure that you understand in no uncertain terms, that we need to wear hard hats at all times without any exceptions? What do I need to do to help you wear hard hats in the future?”

And again, they may give you some reasons why they’re not wearing the hard hat. And maybe there are some genuine reasons why they’re not wearing a hard hat, reasons that you can then go and fix to increase hard hat compliance.

Either way, this usually gets the desired effect. It gets your point across without attacking the person’s behaviour directly.

There are many other ways in which you could do this, but give this one a try and let me let me know how that works for you.

Hopefully that will help answer the question: how do I hold people to account?

If you would like to learn more about managing people, why not try out our Managing People Effectively course, here!

Take care, everyone.