Frustration is a familiar feeling to most managers. We’ve all been there--when things just don’t go as planned and we see opportunity lost and costs rising along with our blood pressure. Shouting louder commands doesn’t really work long-term, nor do last-resort threats aimed at “holding ‘em accountable”. Paradoxically, if there were no work issues there would be little, if any, need for managers. So why is there so much frustration? The frustration is due not to the apparent lack of execution, but rather to a common misbelief held by managers that only adds fuel to the frustration fire. The cause is a hidden wrong assumption about human nature and what a manager can and cannot control.
Human beings are volitional. That’s a fancy word for saying that human beings make choices. Sometime we are aware of the choices we make and sometimes we are not. Regardless of what a manager asks employees to do, or even commands or threatens them to do, followers make the choice to comply and motivate themselves—or not to. Contrary to common misconception, what makes humans comply and motivate themselves has very little to do with their managers.
Since accountability is a choice an individual makes, no manager can force a follower to be accountable. Until this is recognized, leaders will operate at less than optimal levels of performance. There are, however, three ways managers can hold themselves accountable that will result in both better performance and less frustration. It will not be easy, though, as it requires real leadership and courage.
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