Accountability is one of the most important traits of high performing teams. It has a direct impact on productivity and engagement and, consequently, results. It is also linked to increased commitment to work and employee morale. Accountability is about taking responsibility for an outcome and not just the task. It’s about following through and delivering what you committed. Accountability is important at every level of the organization and when every member of the team demonstrates accountability, it leads to strong and cohesive teams, where people trust each other and work together to reach a common goal. However, many organizations lack this significant trait among their teams and fostering accountability isn’t always an easy thing to do. Often, when employees aren’t accountable, the managers hesitate to call them out to avoid harming the work relationships or, worse, demoralizing them. Also, many managers micromanage or spill out their frustrations in the name of holding people accountable which, in turn, negatively impacts employee performance and motivation. Today, we all work in a collaborative work environment where we have to depend on others to complete tasks, and if people aren’t accountable, the efforts of the entire team get wasted. Holding people accountable is essential for team management and thankfully, there are some simple yet effective ways a manager can do this.
- Clarify Your Expectations
Set clear expectations for your team. This includes communicating what results you are looking for, how the team should proceed towards the goal and how the success will be measured. It’s not always the managers who need to decide on these parameters; the strategies, ideas, and techniques should also come from team members. Having an open two-way conversation with employees helps but, as a manager, you need to ensure that you all are on the same page. Documenting things is a great idea but saying them out loud is necessary.
- Analyze the Skills and Resources
The managers need to analyze and identify the skills required to complete the task and get the desired results. Also, figure out what resources the team needs and if something is missing, how to acquire it. It’s important to chalk out a clear plan and delegate tasks as per the capabilities.
- Measure the Progress
Decide on weekly or monthly milestones to measure how things are proceeding. Many leaders get surprised by failures because of a number of reasons. Sometimes the team is over-optimistic about the results while sometimes the employees aren’t comfortable asking for help. Thus, there should be a definite way of measuring progress at regular intervals. Also, in the case of target slips, the team should brainstorm ideas to identify and fix the problem as soon as possible.
- Provide Effective Feedback
Honest and effective feedback is important to hold people accountable. Provide fact-based and clear feedback so that the employees know where they stand and in which areas they need to improve. Feedback can be two-ways, where employees can also freely express what more can be done on the part of the management to help the team achieve goals. Feedback should be provided at regular intervals and should be constructive.
- Communicate the Consequences
Communicate to your team the consequences – what happens if they achieve or fail to achieve their target. If you have taken care of all the above steps to support their performance, you have to decide on two things – reward the good performance (promotion/recognition/awards) or release the people unfit for the role (terminate/change job roles). Talk to your team tactically and let them know what they should expect.
Fostering a culture of accountability in the workplace takes time and the managers need to put a lot of efforts but it’s all worth it. It can positively transform the way a team functions and is critical for the success of the team.