May 26, 2019

5 Steps for Improving Accountability on Your Team

When is John going to get me that report?”

“What is going on with the marketing report? When are they going to finish that thing?”

“I can’t believe Mary is so late in making those phone calls.”

“Okay…who dropped the ball this time?”

“Hey…that’s not MY job.”

Does this sound familiar? If so, your small business team may be faced with a big challenge with accountability, which results in finger pointing, frustration and broken trust…both with your employees and your customers. Personal responsibility and accountability can put an end to the blame game, saving your business thousands if not millions of dollars by increasing productivity and overall job satisfaction, which results in very satisfied customers. These five basic approaches can support you in increasing accountability, which are simple, yet they require actually building a culture of accountability for your business.

1. Communicate the big pictureAccountability stands a better chance of succeeding if everyone in your business embraces a larger responsibility for the success of the entire company. Spend time talking individually with team members about how his or her project affects the vision and mission of the business. With this communication, people can make wiser decisions from the context of the “big picture” rather than from the perspective of what may seem to be a detailed and boring task.

2. State clear expectations- If one person on your team does not meet your expectations, the entire team can fail. It is important from the very beginning of any new project to state the expectations clearly and repeat them over and over again until your team really “gets it.” These expectations need to be crystal clear, including dates, who is responsible for what, the details of the task and how you want the finished product delivered. If your expectations are fuzzy or confusing in any way, your team can break down, and the fine and very important details can fall through the cracks.

3. Accountability work groups-One of the best ways to achieve accountability is to develop shared accountability among team members. Accountability within the team can be accomplished by what Morris R. Shechtman calls “accountability groups,” groups which give team members the permission to speak and listen in a way which is frank and open. This accountability group can include 2-5 people and can then serve as a small unit of people working together to confide in with struggles, weaknesses and insecurities. They can then find creative strategies to work together in the direction of the growth the team intends to achieve.

4. Move to action-In order for accountability to work, people have to know that failure of completion will come with certain consequences, including written warnings, loss of a bonus or extra hours served on a week-end to complete the project on the table. Without consequences, your employees won’t take you seriously. They will think that they can use blame, justification and rationalization as a way to deviate from being responsible, because you have not followed through on what you said you will do if the tasks are not achieved.

5. Reward and recognition program-Employees need to know in a tangible way their efforts are indeed driving the company forward, and it is important for them to share in the fruits of their hard work. The offer of increased pay and benefits (vacations, time off and other perks) can keep accountability and morale high and can motivate employees to continue to strive for high levels of performance.

A is for Accountability

Tardiness. Bickering. Indecisiveness. Blaming. Irresponsibility.

Does this sound familiar? If so, your team (or family) may be suffering from a clear lack of accountability.  While I realize the “A” word is used and overused, I am going to continue talking about it, because I believe a clear accountability process is critical for companies, both large and small, to be able to thrive in the future.

Here is what I experience with many leaders I coach.  One of the first questions I ask is this “Tell me about your accountability and decision making process.  How does it work?”  Approximately 93% of the time, the response is “Uhm, well…er…we don’t really have one.”  As I begin to talk more with the leader about how an accountability process might work and how it can…

1) Save time

2) Stop team conflict

3) Improve decision making

4) Make more money

5) Reduce a stalemate

and so forth, their eyes light up.  They get so excited.  I then say “So…tell me about how you feel about being the role model for an accountability process by giving your team permission to start calling you on your stuff?”  Guess what happens?  About 93% of the time, the leader decides against implementing an accountability system or process, because at the end of the day, they say they just don’t know that they can go through this.  They really aren’t ready to hear feedback from their team members and feel as if this approach would weaken her authority and diminish her credibility.

The opposite is actually true.  When a leader steps up and says “I am going to start being more efficient, more punctual, more open to your suggestions and am going to start being a better listener, and I need you to call me on the carpet when I’m out of line”, your team will be shocked, amazed and your credibility as a leader will dramatically increase.    Once the leader sets the stage for being held accountable, your team will “get it”, and then you and your team can sit down and hammer out a true accountability system which meets the needs of your company.  At the end of the day, with a solid accountability process…one that works…your team will feel much more secure about their role on the team and about you as a leader.

One idea on the topic of accountability is to start by identifying one tiny problem that keeps popping up on your team.  This could be tardiness to staff meetings, lack of follow through, not returning phone calls, clutter, dropping the ball, finger pointing or any type of team breakdown that gets in the way of your efficiency.  Start with one problem, and look at all of the reasons (at the root) which are contributing to the problem.  Acknowledge that the problem exists, discuss it with your team and then design an accountability system for that one problem, and give your team 3 months to get it worked out.  As much as I would love to give you a true formula for this (example…a 3 strike rule…3 strikes and you are out), I cannot…your team has to be the group to sit down and come up with a creative way to get people to correct a deficiency or problem, because trust me…one system does not fit all.  There are multiple approaches which include both consequences for falling short and rewards for success.  Sit down and come up with as many solutions as possible and then write out what your process will be and then follow it to the nth degree.

If you start today by addressing the accountability challenges in your company, your team will stand a much better chance of success in the future…trust me…I’ve worked with teams on this issue multiple times, and accountability processes do work, but only if you are willing to be the first to take the hit..

5 Strategies for Improving Accountability

“When is John going to get me that report?”
“What is going on with the marketing report? When are they going to finish that thing?”
“I can’t believe Mary is so late in making those phone calls.”
“Okay…who dropped the ball this time?”
“Hey…that’s not MY job.”

Does this sound familiar? If so, your team may be faced with a big challenge with accountability, which results in finger pointing, frustration and broken trust…both with your employees and your customers. Personal responsibility and accountability can put an end to the blame game, saving your business thousands if not millions of dollars by increasing productivity and overall job satisfaction, which results in very satisfied customers. These five basic approaches can support you in increasing accountability, which are simple, yet they require actually building a culture of accountability for your business.

Communicate the big picture- Accountability stands a better chance of succeeding if everyone in your business embraces a larger responsibility for the success of the entire company. Spend time talking individually with team members about how his or her project affects the vision and mission of the business. With this communication, people can make wiser decisions from the context of the “big picture” rather than from the perspective of what may seem to be a detailed and boring task.

State clear expectations- If one person on your team does not meet your expectations, the entire team can fail. It is important from the very beginning of any new project to state the expectations clearly and repeat them over and over again until your team really “gets it.” These expectations need to be crystal clear, including dates, who is responsible for what, the details of the task and how you want the finished product delivered. If your expectations are fuzzy or confusing in any way, your team can break down, and the fine and very important details can fall through the cracks.

Accountability work groups-One of the best ways to achieve accountability is to develop shared accountability among team members. Accountability within the team can be accomplished by what Morris R. Shechtman calls “accountability groups,” groups which give team members the permission to speak and listen in a way which is frank and open. This accountability group can include 2-5 people and can then serve as a small unit of people working together to confide in with struggles, weaknesses and insecurities. They can then find creative strategies to work together in the direction of the growth the team intends to achieve.

Move to action-In order for accountability to work, people have to know that failure of completion will come with certain consequences, including written warnings, loss of a bonus or extra hours served on a week-end to complete the project on the table. Without consequences, your employees won’t take you seriously. They will think that they can use blame, justification and rationalization as a way to deviate from being responsible, because you have not followed through on what you said you will do if the tasks are not achieved.

Reward and recognition program-Employees need to know in a tangible way their efforts are indeed driving the company forward, and it is important for them to share in the fruits of their hard work. The offer of increased pay and benefits (vacations, time off and other perks) can keep accountability and morale high and can motivate employees to continue to strive for high levels of performance..