A Culture Built on Accountability
Individuals sometimes associate accountability with the ability to “catch” employees red-handed and point fingers at them or set strict rules in a highly disciplinary manner. This detrimental approach makes employees feel like they are being controlled by the rules rather than in a proactive atmosphere of solid responsibility.
Accountability barely involves rules, but it is about setting a common expectation and holding people responsible through clearly defining the company's vision, mission, goals, and values. Employee accountability has every employee, from part-time interns to top team leaders, responsible for accomplishing or failing company goals.
To balance accountability, employees and team leaders need to be provided with autonomy in their respective roles. They may take responsibility for their work and are motivated to perform well when they feel empowered in their professions. Building an accountable culture promotes good performance inside an organization.
The Realities of Accountability
Accountability is Not Synonymous with Control
Team leaders often mistake accountability for control. This could establish goals with stringent measures like mandatory hours, tight production controls, and meticulously inspected key performance indicators (KPIs).
But before holding their team accountable, team leaders must also learn to hold themselves responsible. Accountability is an internal task that originates from a personal area. Additionally, a manager cannot create intrinsic motivation in a worker.
As a team leader, however, you can ensure you are accountable to your employees, managing every detail in a process and leading by example. Concentrating on these elements can guide your people on the correct path and motivate them to show greater regard for one another.
The Entire System Matters
Where accountability is involved, some team leaders tend to get fixated on a single individual, usually the following:
The poor performer
Someone who often fails to follow through
The one who isn’t pulling their weight
This could affect their productivity levels because they are engrossed in fixing that individual.
Numerous interconnected elements in the office determine the optimal performance of the employees that work in it, including team members, policies and processes, technologies being used, and the metrics being tracked.
Before addressing an issue with an employee, team leaders should take a look at the entire system surrounding that individual, and later the areas that may be causing or contributing to that issue.
Before we address underperformers, sometimes we need to take action, like ultimately changing legacy KPIs, admitting our leadership flaws, or recognizing technological gaps.
Do your research and have the courage to look into all the relevant factors. Leaders can demonstrate accountability in the workplace by doing this.
Your Expectations are What You Get
Psychologically known as the Pygmalion effect, team performance is highly dependent and transformed by positive and negative expectations. Therefore, your view of an individual or of a team becomes a fulfilled prophecy.
When you inform your team members of a particular standard that must be met and you expect them to deliver their best, they usually will rise to the occasion. On the other hand, disregarding expectations and further setting the bar low will cause the exact same effect.
Clarity Must Be Observed
Knowing how powerfully transforming your expectations may be should encourage you to be quite clear about what they are. You can't just assume that your team shares your perspective. Each employee has a unique processing and reaction style to information.
Simply saying “Let’s be more accountable” and little else can give a rather vague message about accountability. Your direct reports must observe what constitutes employee accountability. The more direct, sharp, and clear your expectations are, the better and easier it will be for you to communicate them.
Emotional Intelligence is Important
Regarding workplace accountability, it's acceptable to assume that occasionally individuals are unaware of the consequences of their actions. As the leader, it is your responsibility to be considerate, identify the reason of the issue, and create a plan of action that benefits everyone.
Taking responsibility for one's actions, commitments, and responsibilities is also a key component of the emotional intelligence principle of accountability.
Through daily conversations with your employees, you can concentrate on helping them maintain their confidence and sense of security in the company by showing genuine concern for them as well as their needs within the company. Always take the time to understand why certain actions were done or tasks were performed a certain way.
Making Accountability a Priority in the Workplace
Accountability is quite a loaded concept nowadays, especially amidst a global pandemic and cultural shift. What does it truly mean to hold one’s self-accountable today? What does it look like in the workplace right now? And what is its impact on employees?
Establish a Trustworthy Environment
People are motivated in two different ways: Extrinsic and Intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is driven by factors that are beyond a person’s enjoyment of the work. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, occurs when a person is more driven by their internal compass to accomplish a task.
Although neither of these motivational methods is inherently bad, relying too heavily on extrinsic incentives will have the reverse impact and demotivate workers. Extrinsic motivation frequently uses fear-based incentives to encourage workers to put in more effort, which swiftly erodes trust.
By fearing management, employees’ ability to hold accountability will drastically decrease. With a work environment built on trust, communication channels are opened and employees are encouraged to disclose faults and weaknesses. The key to accountability is encouraging employees to hold themselves accountable for their work without the external pressure of humiliation and punishment, and not penalizing them every time they commit a mistake.
Establish Clear Goals and Follow-Up on Them
Employees can amplify their accountability when they are given a clear understanding of what they are being held accountable for. If you want your employees to perform excellently, give them clearly defined expectations, whether they are short- or long-term.
To set effective goals with their teams, team leaders must clearly communicate how every member, themselves included, will be held accountable. For example, identify your company’s objectives for the new year and evaluate the responsibilities given to your position and that of your team members.
Moving forward, once your team clearly understands the goals they are going to be held accountable for, set measurable goals that align with their roles and responsibilities. All employees should also be provided with a thorough list of the indicators they must track weekly or monthly to see if they are fulfilling their obligations.
In that case, next, leaders should consistently communicate with their team members to check in on everyone’s progress toward their individual goals. The personal contributions of each employee and the accomplishments they have had that impact the company’s success should always be prioritized in this step.
Teach the Art of Issuing a Real Apology
Like every aspect of workplace culture, accountability requires honest, open communication. A team member is more likely to cause conflict with other team members if they consistently obstruct projects from moving forward, inconvenience other teams, or fall short of their predetermined goals.
Start by refraining from making excuses when you apologize for any workplace disputes. Making excuses, despite their validity, detracts from the most crucial aspect of the conversation: your apologies. Accountability involves genuinely owning up to your faults.
True ownership is another critical element in a sincere apology. By holding the employee accountable, it is ensured that they are aware of their contribution to the disagreement and that they will take steps in the future to prevent making the same error. Encourage workers to pay attention to what others are saying rather than thinking about what they want to say in response. By doing this, individuals may be confident the other side is being heard and understood without focusing on themselves.
And lastly, identify applicable corrective steps the employee must take to pacify the conflict. Ensure that these steps are direct, timely, and achievable.
Workplace accountability is a marathon, not a sprint. It begins with you and requires time and effort to establish. With this essential knowledge in mind, you can establish a work climate that emphasizes responsibility and trust. With a workplace like this, employees may feel empowered to hold each other and themselves accountable for their actions and goals. Your company is positioned for long-term success in this way.