"A river without banks is a puddle." That´s what I once heard a minister say when talking about the need to set limits for children.
The same can be said for setting limits for your employees. (No, I am not suggesting you treat your employees like children.) Over at QA QnA, Tom Vander Well posts about empowerment without accountability. In his post Tom disagrees with another blogger who did not believe in the necessity for accountability (Tom, you should have linked back to that post:-(
If you, as the business owner or senior manager, want to upgrade your customer service environment, you cannot just rewrite the policies and walk away. In an earlier post I talked about the importance of securing buy-in from your senior and middle managers. You do this by first communicating the benefits the organization will derive as well as the benefits they, and their subordinates, will derive. (Yes, that´s "WIIFM.) Then, you hold them accountable for their actions by incorporating these into their performance objectives. As Peter Drucker once said, "Management is responsible first for producing results."
Accountability is being held responsible for your actions. Empowerment is freedom to act and in the worksite that means freedom to act within certain limits. Or banks, as the minister said above. His point, if you set reasonable limits then gave children the freedom of choice within those limits, they will progress in the right direction growing and learning. In our case, just as a river without banks loses direction and becomes a stagnating puddle, employees without limits (accountability) lose their effectiveness.
To encourage the behavior change you want, you should not only build in accountability and empowerment, you must also revise your rewards and recognition programs. Define the desired behavior, then build in incentives, monetary and otherwise. Tom seemed somewhat surprised that monetary rewards worked in the cases he wrote about. But I´m not surprised because, to me, this is basic psychology. (Does the name "Pavlov" ring a bell?) If you use your performance management system to clearly state the desired behavior, then provide rewards and recognition for that desired behavior, you´ll find it easier to change the behavior.
Empower your employees but hold them accountable for their actions. Be sure you reward and recognize the behavior you expect.