Taking responsibility for your actions and decisions is the cornerstone of trust; without it, organizations crumble. That’s why accountability is so vital to a well-functioning work environment. When your organization holds itself accountable, your customers have confidence that you’ll do what you’ve promised.
How do you get there, though? It all starts with creating a culture where accountability is the norm. If your employees take ownership of their responsibilities and actions, it can help them become better team members and natural leaders. Keep reading for ways to encourage accountability among your team members.
1. Rally Around a Common Goal
A large factor in employees taking responsibility for their work and actions is establishing buy-in. When team members feel like they are truly part of a team, they are often more connected and engaged. Rallying your team around a common goal is a great way to accomplish this. It creates strategic alignment and helps foster accountability.
You may be familiar with the differences between cooperative (co-op) board games and traditional, individual-player ones. In a co-op game, players work together to accomplish a shared objective instead of competing singly to become the sole winner. In a co-op game, players all win together or lose together.
Creating this type of environment, in which everyone strives toward a shared goal, can help team members hold each other accountable. Jamila won’t hesitate to tell Andrew to step up, as she knows the entire team’s success requires him to complete his task. For his part, Andrew will accept this gentle nudge because he doesn’t want to let his teammates down.
A culture of collaboration rather than competition can also foster a positive experience. If colleagues are working on a project together, they will check in with each other. They want to succeed as a team, not score points at their counterparts’ expense.
2. Set the Example
If you’re a parent, you may have found yourself saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” And how did that work out for you? This principle — if you can call it that — is just as fallible in business leadership as it is in parenting. The phrase “More is caught than taught” rings true, though. If you want your employees to work as a team and not vie with each other in competition, look in the mirror.
Your actions as a leader trickle down to each layer below you. To create a collaborative environment of mutual trust and respect, you have to act accordingly. Show your employees that you are accountable. Do what you say you’ll do, just as you ask those below you too. Be willing to share credit and deliver on your promises.
Define responsibilities for each role clearly and be consistent in your treatment of others. These two actions alone will go a long way toward creating the atmosphere you want. With clear parameters, people know what is expected of them. It also is easier to hold employees accountable when there are clear objectives and timelines.
3. Use Positive Reinforcement
It should come as no surprise that people don’t enjoy being reprimanded. In company cultures that only point out workers’ shortcomings, it can be hard to stay positive. Employees can feel like a month’s worth of good work is diminished with one mistake. Don’t only talk about the mistakes; acknowledge the hard work, too.
Does this mean you can’t hold employees responsible for errors? Of course not. You can and should offer corrective advice, but do so constructively. Offer ways team members can grow and create a formal performance improvement plan for those who need it. However, maintain a positive focus as much as you can.
The reason is, with positive reinforcement, employees feel appreciated, seen, and recognized for demonstrating their accountability. They did their job well, and this was rewarded. At weekly meetings, you could start off the agenda with a call for shout-outs. Leadership and employees at all levels can use this as an opportunity to share credit and thank others.
4. Make Meetings Matter
You’ve likely sat through an hour-long meeting and then afterward wondered what was accomplished. To move the needle on projects and objectives, establish clear action items and deadlines. This lets everyone know who is responsible for which deliverables and by when. It creates a map of accountability.
Setting the expectation that a meeting agenda will be sent out prior to each meeting can help. During the meeting, make sure employees discuss the agenda items and specify who or which teams will be tackling them. After the meeting, send out the minutes within a set time period. Though this may seem needlessly rigid, a consistent process keeps people on track. When everyone knows what to expect, they can hold up their end.
Assigning tasks directly to individuals is more effective than collectively stating, “We need to get this done.” When an employee hears their name attached to an action item, they know it’s up to them to own it. Moreover, set clear deadlines. The clarity with which an employee receives a task helps them to complete it.
Accountability Is Critical
Accountability is essential to a healthy work environment. You need to be able to trust your employees, and they want to feel acknowledged for their actions and decisions. By fostering accountability within your team, your organization will become stronger and more effective. Your clients and customers will see this and trust you to deliver on your promises.
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