Do Less, Gain More Employee Accountability

By Anne Warfield, February 23rd, 2016

There is a strange phenomenon I find among leaders–they are often causing their own greatest problems by trying to do something nice.  

I often see leaders who realize their workers are over taxed and so the leader steps in to help out.  Seems admirable on the cover but unfortunately it often has dire unintended consequences.

See the brain works in patterns–it learns a pattern and then uses it to remain on task and to be fully accountable to those results. You step in and take over one step in that pattern and unfortunately the other person’s brain often then let’s go of all accountability and starts operating at a lower level.

Let me give you an example to illustrate what I am talking about:  My children have been doing the dishes since they were about  6 years old.  They load the dishwasher, wash the counters and table, sweep the floor and in the morning when the dishes are clean they unload them and put them away.  A very established routine which they have gotten quite good at since they are now all over the age of 15.  So we are talking about a process that has been imprinted in their brain for over 9 years.

In the last year I have taken to getting up, having coffee, making them breakfast and then going up to work out.  As I am downstairs making breakfast I have gotten bored so I have started to empty the dishwasher and put the dishes on the center island for them to put away rather than waiting for one of them to come down an unload the dishwasher.  Funny thing has happened–if I don’t unload the dishwasher, they don’t empty it and put away the dishes.  Instead they rinse and stack their dishes by the sink.

Now we are talking about ONE small change in the routine–me taking out the dishes rather than them– but it has completely disrupted their brain’s ability to assume accountability.  Instead they transferred that to me (if Mom hasn’t emptied the dishwasher than it must not be ready to be emptied) rather than keeping it with them.

So before you step in make sure you are not disrupting a routine and transferring accountability.  Notice how 9 years of a routine got completely out of whack with less than a year of me stepping in.  Keep accountability with employees and just start helping them with how to create routines they own and follow.

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