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By Darryl Stewart

What if your employees wanted to be held accountable?

A common assumption is that if you hold people too accountable for their results they will not do great work, and they will not be very happy.

What if, just for fun, we turned that assumption on its head and worked from the idea that people want to be held accountable for their results. If we make this assumption then we must find other reasons why people do mediocre work. Turns out there are plenty of candidates, besides being held accountable for results, which can lead to disengaged behaviour.

A prime candidate is lack of autonomy or as I like to put it, being micro-managed. The science on this is clear. We all fundamentally crave control over the day to day way that we operate.

Each of us wants to have control over four main things:

Task – we want to choose what things we do

Time – we want to choose when we do things

Technique – we want to choose how we do things

Team – we want to choose who we do things with

The science is also clear that each of us prize different aspects of this control differently. Some might crave freedom of when to do things over what to do, others the opposite. It is not one size fits all.

Rick Mercer head shot
Rick Mercer has been accountable and successful for years. Why can’t your employees be too?
Photo from Rick Mercer Report

Take Rick Mercer for example. I really admire his humour and his style. In his current role as host of his own show on CBC, Rick has a lot of control over task and technique but, as I learned during a recent talk of his, less control over team and very little control over time.

When I look at Rick’s career, it becomes apparent that the writing and performing is where he shines and where he craves control. He can put up with less control over time and team and still perform at a world class level.

Now back to our original assumption that being held accountable for results is a bad thing. If having to complete 20 shows per season on time, on budget, and with great ratings, is not being held accountable, I don’t know what is. In return for doing great work even while being held accountable this way, Rick has gained a national audience. He has done things that many of us only dream of. Things like jumping from a plane with the Canadian armed forces as well as some things some of us would never dream of like skinny dipping with Bob Rae.

I think we can insist on great results. The people we support or the customers we serve deserve that. Where we can be more flexible is in how our teams get to those results. We need to find the type of autonomy each person craves most and figure out how to make this happen; long before we decide we need to accept mediocre results.

IBEX Payroll extends our profound respect and immeasurable gratitude to all the ancestors and keepers of the land on whose traditional territories our work takes place. We acknowledge that we are on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional gathering place of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene people and the traditional homeland of the Métis people. This land is sacred, historical, and significant. 

Every time we acknowledge this truth, we have an invitation and an opportunity to reflect on the wrongs of the past, what we do in the present, and what we can do to continually honour the people whose lands and water we benefit from today. 

This statement only acts as a first step in honouring the land we reside on and its peoples, and must be paired with education, understanding and informed action.