5 Best Practices for Holding Your Team Accountable

When your team is accountable, they’re reliable. They also develop a sense of ownership in their work and a better understanding of how their tasks and deadlines impact the rest of the organization.

A culture of accountability does not appear overnight, but you can work to make accountability real. Here are five best practices for holding your team accountable:

Specify the expectations and the consequences of not meeting goals.

When your team knows what they need to do and what will happen if they don’t do it, it is easier for them to prioritize certain tasks and to understand why those priorities are necessary. When expectations for quality, deadlines and communication are vague, the results will be vague as well. If consequences are not clear, team members have no way to determine why their hard work is necessary.

Think What, Why, Who and When.

With every task you set for your team, answer the four W questions:

  • What needs to be done?
  • Why is it important this be done?
  • Who is responsible for doing it?
  • When should it be finished?

By focusing in this way, you eliminate many of the excuses that destroy accountability, such as “I didn’t know that needed to be done!” or “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that!”

Avoid micromanagement.

Micromanaging can lead to employees feeling stifled. It can also destroy accountability because it leaves no room for employees to self-direct, self-prioritize or take ownership of the process.

Instead, focus your energies on communicating clearly the expectation and consequences. Then, free your team to work. Leave your door open for questions. Once results are in, sit down with employees to discuss what worked and what needs improvement.

Ask for input.

Accountability depends engagement, and engagement depends on employees having a real stake in the process. Build these stakes from the ground up by asking employees what the biggest barriers to accountability are. Seek ideas for overcoming these barriers. Talk about ways to find greater purpose and meaning in the work you do as a team.

Focus on the issues.

Very few people enjoy playing “team sheriff,” which explains why so few managers follow through on accountability when a team member falls short. But follow-through is essential. When you must hold a team member accountable for a failure, do it by focusing on the issue: “I asked you to do X by Friday, and X is not done. How will you prevent this from happening again?” Asking for a solution circumvents the “excuses game” and focuses attention on resolving the issue.

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