employees unhappy unsuccessful croppedMark was aggravated. Shelly had just told him, ‘We’re not going to meet our projections.” She had created goals that were important to the organization. Without their completion, other departments couldn’t move forward. Now she and her team were falling short.

What was he going to do? Get bossy and demanding? Question? Plead? Yell? Act passive-aggressively? Punish her or her department? Throw up his hands in frustration?

Mark’s question (maybe yours, too)


How do I get my employees to own what they promise and deliver on it?


The heavy stuff doesn’t work. It just makes the employees shut down, get fearful and defensive and be less productive. It triggers the amygdala, the reptilian part of the brain responsible for survival because the employee feels so threatened. The prefrontal cortex, the executive problem-solving part of the brain, then doesn’t have a chance to function.

And it’s not about ‘fixing’ the employee. It’s your responsibility as the business owner to set up the culture and internal systems and check their options that makes accountability rampant in your company.

Here’s a better strategy.

  1. Set clear expectations. Have them involved in creating the expectations. Have them summarize the expectations and time frame so you know they’ve got it. Make sure they know the context around the project, how important it is, how it fits into the big picture. More clarity may be needed as the project progresses through twists and turns.
  2. Do they have the wherewithal to accomplish the goals or project? Skills, background, mentoring, resources, team, coaching? Why set them up for failure if they don’t have access to what will ensure success?
  3. Monitor progress and give feedback. Agree on weekly milestones that are measurable. Are they meeting their milestones? Why or why not? Be open, factual, succinct, and honest. Encourage requests for support. Empower them to redesign, reschedule, create fixes so the project stays on track week by week. Is there something they are not getting from you that’s creating an obstacle?

In a nutshell be collaborative. Be a coach. (the opposite of a demanding boss who is super critical, unapproachable and rarely satisfied). As the project gets completed make sure that the employee is appreciated, recognized and even rewarded. I bet they’ll be much more capable when taking on their next project. And now they’re ready to coach someone else through a project. Alternatively, if after you’ve taken responsibility for doing 1, 2, and 3 completely, the employee still isn’t meeting the expectations, then it’s time to reevaluate his/her role.

When you act in this way and follow steps 1, 2, and 3, you set up a culture of accountability. You’re modeling it for others in your organization. You’re setting up the expectation that promises will be kept, and we work with each other and hold each other responsible for meeting goals. You also get known throughout the company as a person who brings out the best in each of your employees. You become a magnet for good talent as well as a successful business mogul.

Jeri Quinn

Jeri Quinn from Driving Improved Results is an executive coach, management consultant, speaker and author who focuses on communication in her work with executives and companies. She is the author of The Customer Loyalty Playbook, 12 Game Strategies to Drive Improved Results in Your Business. With more than 40 years as a serial entrepreneur.

Quinn has worked with executives and teams in over 40 industries, spoken at major business expos including New York City’s Javits Center, facilitated business development and extraordinary customer service at institutions such as MoMA and AIG, and has partnered with New York City, The Kauffman Foundation, Citibank, Merrill Lynch, HSBC, and Signature Bank to educate their clients.


She can be reached at:

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