Accountability in the workplace is linked to higher performance. It’s also linked to increases in commitment to work and employee morale. The problem is that accountability is lacking in many workplaces.
Accountability in the workplace
Accountability is about follow through and getting done what you said you’d get done. It’s recognizing that other team members are dependant on the results of your work. It’s about open, proactive communication to keep team members informed of the status of your commitments because it has a direct impact on their ability to achieve their own commitments.
Taking ownership at work is about taking initiative and doing the right thing for the business. It’s about taking responsibility for results and not assuming it’s someone else’s responsibility. It’s the opposite of passing the buck.
Ultimately, when team members consistently demonstrate ownership and accountability, trust is formed. You trust someone will do the right thing and trust that they’ll do what they said they’d do. Trust is the backbone of high-performing teams.
What happens when there’s no accountability?
It damages the team.
When people are not accountable, one person’s delay becomes the team’s delay. One shortfall snowballs into bigger shortfalls. Tolerating missed deadlines, lack of punctuality and unfinished work has the tendency to make this behaviour “no big deal.” People learn that the real deadline is a week from the published one; that consistently being 10 minutes late for a meeting is the norm; that sub-par work is acceptable. Your team suffers, and ultimately your workplace culture suffers. too.
Having a member of the team that isn’t meeting their commitments and isn’t being held accountable causes frustration and disengagement with the rest of the team.
How to make accountability a core part of your culture
The two biggest reasons that we resist holding other people accountable are because we’re uncomfortable doing it and because we forget to do it. So let’s tackle these issues.
1. Work on your feedback skills
Giving tough feedback isn’t easy, but you can get better at it. Not only that, but one of the most important things you do as a manager is provide feedback because not giving feedback is one of the most demotivating things you can do to your employees. Even negative feedback is better than being ignored. When you regularly give feedback (including positive feedback), it makes tough feedback much easier.
This is such an important topic, we’ve dedicated a whole post to giving good feedback to employees. At its heart, good feedback comes from a place of genuinely wanting to help. You need to “give a damn”. The second part of it is to be clear and direct. Feedback should not be ambiguous.
2. Recognize that procrastinating feedback only makes things worse
As uncomfortable as it is, when we procrastinate providing feedback, we only make matters worse. Issues very rarely resolve themselves and just turn into bigger issues. Eventually, you have to deal with it. It’s easier to deal with the issue as soon as possible for you, for the person you’re providing the feedback to and for the rest of the team. Remind yourself of this often.
3. Make accountability a habit
Setting up a reminder to give (and solicit) feedback as part of each agenda will help ensure that feedback flows consistently. We believe one-on-ones and team meetings are great opportunities to build a habit around accountability.
Here are a few of the questions that managers using SoapBox add to their one-on-ones to make accountability a habit:
- Is there anything we should START doing as a team?
- Would you like more or less direction from me on your work?
- Do you feel you’re getting enough feedback on your work? If not, where would you like more feedback?
- Is there an aspect of your job where you would like more help or coaching?
- How could we improve the ways our team works together?
4. Keep track of your commitments and hold each other accountable
If you make a promise to provide more positive feedback, make sure you add that as a future agenda item to check in to hold yourself accountable. If your employee commits to providing a work back schedule for a project by such and such a date, make sure you have a way to check-in on that day.
One easy way to hold foster a culture of accountability – or, if the damage has already been done, address a lack of accountability – is to make sure you’re assigning action items during meetings. This is a perfect way to hold each and every member of your team accountable for their actions. In SoapBox, for example, our Next Steps feature allows you to assign action items to team members, complete with deadlines, right in each meeting agenda item. You can’t close the agenda item until all the Next Steps are complete, so the team has a clear picture of what’s being done – and who needs to be held accountable for tasks that have been missed.
Making these tips a part of your day-to-day takes time, but it’s worth it when it comes to building a culture of accountability for your team. (And SoapBox can help!)