Hold People Accountable by Establishing and Communicating Clear Standards

By Jeff Janssen, Janssen Sports Leadership Center

One of the biggest challenges to holding people accountable is clearly establishing and communicating your Standards and expectations. If people aren't clear about what is expected of them, they will have a hard time delivering what you want and need from them to be successful.

It is critical to clearly establish your team’s Performance and Behavioral Standards and expectations on the front end because you can’t hold people accountable to do or achieve something if they aren’t 100% clear about what is expected of them. If you haven’t clarified what is expected, you provide people with an easy out and valid excuse for not doing it. It’s the primary reason why this Step 2 of Establish the Standard is included so early in the whole creating a Culture of Accountability process because it is so essential to holding a person accountable.

We use two proven tools to establish clear Performance and Behavioral Standards: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and the Standards of Performance Matrix - both are described in our new How to Hold People Accountable Manual.

By involving everyone on your team in Establishing the Standards, you not only value their input but you co-develop and clearly communicate the Standards you collectively believe are essential to achieving your team’s Desired Result. Yes, this process of creating a Standards of Performance and Behavior Matrix can take some time on the front end, but it will save you a ton of time and frustration throughout the season on the back end by clearly establishing your team’s expectations and Standards.

Avoid the Unmet Expectations that Lead to Conflict

Ultimately, you want to firmly establish and clearly communicate your expectations and Standards to your team at the beginning of the season to avoid the frustration of unmet expectations during the season (or after the season). Much of the conflict that distracts, divides, and destroys a team comes down to unmet expectations and Standards. People typically become frustrated when athletes do not do or meet what is expected of them. The frustration is the result of the gap between the Expected Performance or Behavior and the Exhibited Performance/Behavior as shown below:

The leaders and team members expect certain levels of Performance and Behavior from teammates and become frustrated when there is a gap between what’s Exhibited and what’s Expected. Conversely, the person whose Performance/Behavior fell short of the team’s expectation also feels frustrated, either because they were not clearly told what was expected or for some reason they didn’t fully realize how important the Performance/Behavior was to the team’s success. The wider the gap, the greater the frustration.

I can almost guarantee you that most of the conflicts and problems your team will have this year are because a person didn’t live up to the Performance or Behavior Standards you and your team expected of them. Unmet expectations are the underlying source of most conflicts.

A huge part of the problem and the primary reason for the gap between expectations being met and the Performance or Behavior demonstrated is that the expectations and Standards were never firmly established or clearly communicated in the first place. No one specifically communicated this Performance/Behavior is Acceptable or Unacceptable, it was just assumed. That is why Step 2 of Establishing the Standard and creating your own Standards of Behavior Matrix is so critical to holding people accountable. You must invest the time to CLEARLY Establish the Standard and expectations to avoid the problem of unclear expectations and ultimately unmet expectations.

Further, it is not just Establishing the Standard behind closed doors with the Leadership Team, it is also collectively establishing and clearly communicating the Standards and expectations to your team as well. Without this clear communication of the Standard, you will not have the foundation or quite frankly the right to hold your teammates accountable to them. Your teammates can’t effectively meet the Standard if they don’t legitimately know the Standard because they were never involved in creating the Standard or sufficiently informed about it. Be sure to build a discussion of your Standards when you meet with your new team members (first years, transfers, new staff) to orient them to your program. Don’t skip this important step of Establishing the Standard on your team or it will trip you up when it comes time to try to hold people accountable.

Finally, it is also not just communicating your Standards once, but communicating them in a variety of ways using multiple mediums. Post a copy of your Standards in a prominent place in your locker room, weight room, training room, and anywhere else where your team gathers frequently. Make sure everyone has a copy of the Standards in your player notebooks. You can even laminate the Standards and make bag tags for your backpacks, gym bags, etc. You will also reinforce your Standards every time you endorse the people who meet and exceed them and enforce the people who fall short.

Our all-new How to Hold People Accountable Manual teaches your athletes how to establish, endorse, and enforce your team's standards. Click on the cover to learn more.


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