Archived ShowsHard TruthsHard Truths: Improve Performance Through Consequences

Hard Truths: Improve Performance Through Consequences

On this episode of Hard Truths, Dave talks about consequences. Once you have clarity, once your expectations are clear, you’ve got to give feedback, based on those expectations, but what happens if the job doesn’t get done? That’s where consequences come in.


Hi, welcome to Hard Truths with Dave Anderson, the show where we talk about the things that need to be talked about, but that people don’t want to talk about, because of the politically correct times that we live in. In the past few episodes, I’ve talked about accountability. We’ve talked about the four levels of accountability, the four aspects of clarity that make accountability possible. In my last episode, I talked about the importance of candid feedback.

Once you have clarity, once your expectations are clear, you’ve got to give feedback, based on those expectations, but what happens if the job doesn’t get done? That’s where consequences come in. Consequences are a big part of accountability. It’s what really ties it all together, but you have a lot of people in leadership positions that are afraid to coach with consequences, and they don’t understand what they’re leaving up for grabs, like their credibility and the culture and the morale of the rest of the team, because people do the wrong thing, and nothing happens.

There’s a law of behavioral science that says, “If you want to change a behavior, you’ve got to change the consequence for that behavior.” Think about that. That’s a big-time principle. If somebody’s coming in late every day, they’re probably going to keep coming in late every day until there’s a what? A consequence for coming in late. Now, what the consequence is is up to you, but that you should have one is not an option, if you want to maintain a strong culture. Do you have consequences? Are they clear enough? Are they in writing? Do people understand them? Do you apply them consistently? If you apply it to this one and then not to this one, now you’ve probably got a discrimination suit on your hands.

Whatever you say you’re going to do, you’d better be ready to do. You can’t flinch when it gets tough. You can’t flinch because the person’s your friend, or you’re afraid to lose him, or he’s a top performer. You either stand for something or you don’t, all right? Don’t mess around here. If it’s a consequence, it has to be applied, and people should expect it to be applied. It’s not designed to humiliate. The sole objective of a consequence is to improve performance. To change the behavior, you’re changing the consequence. It’s not to humiliate or embarrass anybody.

Another thing … They’ve got to be specific. I’ve heard people say, “Listen. If you come in late again, there are going to be consequences.” Okay, well, what the heck does that mean? I’m going to egg your house? I’m going to give you a wedgie? You have to stand in the corner? I mean, what a ridiculous thing to say, “There are going to be consequences.”

Listen. I really do believe the reason some leaders leave it vague is they don’t have the guts to actually apply the consequence, so they leave themselves an escape clause. If I leave it vague, I really don’t have to do anything. If I say I’m going to do it, I’m going to feel more obligated to actually do what I’m paid to do and protect my culture and the team morale and apply the consequence.

Make them clear. Make them in writing, specific, right? Be consistent with them. Make them appropriate, too. Make them appropriate. Then, look at what you call a standard in your organization. If you have core values, they should be standards. They’re not optional, okay? I don’t care what you produce, you have to live the values. If there’s certain performance standards you have, if you’re calling them a standard, you’d better have a consequence if it doesn’t get done, otherwise you don’t have standards; you just have suggestions.

This is something for you to think about after this show is over. Anything you’re calling a standard, what happens if it doesn’t get done? If there’s not a consequence, you can’t call it a standard.

I had a manager in one of my classes. I speak about 120 times a year, so you hear just about everything. He told me, he said, “Well, one of our standards is that our salespeople need to make 10 calls a day.”

I said, “Okay, or what?” I got the blank look from him. I said, “Or what?” I got the blank look again. I said, “There isn’t an or what is there?” I said, “There’s no consequence, is there?”

He said, “Well, no.”

I said, “Well, let me help you out here. You don’t have a performance standard. You have a performance suggestion. You are suggesting people make 10 calls a day. It sounds to me like if they don’t do it, nothing’s going to happen.”

He said, “Well, what should the consequence be?”

I told him what I’m telling you right now. There’s no one size fits all. It has to fit the situation, but whatever it’s going to be, you’ve got to do it. I said, “In the case of phone calls, I don’t know. It might be some sort of progressive discipline, where each time they don’t do it, it gets a little worse, until they don’t work there any more.” First time you don’t do it, it’s a verbal warning. Second time, it’s a written warning. Third time, “Don’t come back into work. You’re finished.”

Again, whatever you want to do is up to you. The fact that you should do something is not an option. I’ll go back to what I said in my very first episode about accountability. It is a duty. It’s a duty. It is not something that you have the option to do, if you want to lead well and at the highest possible level.

Evaluate. Whatever standards you have, whatever values you have, do you need to tighten it up a little bit? Are your consequences clear enough? Are they in writing? Do people understand them? Are you consistent? Are you applying them? If not, start to tighten things up quickly, because there’s too much at stake for that not to happen.

That’ll take us into our next episode, where I’m going to start talking about the principles from my book, Unstoppable. In that book, I talk about four different types of performers: undertakers, caretakers, play makers, and game changers. Guess what? That game changer needs a whole lot less accountability, because they’re holding themselves accountable. We’ll talk about some differences in that group and how to get up there into game changer status for yourself and for your team. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll talk again real soon.


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