Ideal Outcomes

Seven Ways To Create A Culture Of Accountability

surprised man in suit with papers in hand
If projects don’t get finished on time or are not finished at all; are handled in a slipshod, unsatisfactory manner; or lead to a lot of finger-pointing among employees, there’s often one root cause: a lack of accountability.

It’s a serious problem. One study of more than 5,400 upper-level managers found that accountability was their single most neglected behavior and that 46% failed to perform in this critical area.

The responsibility for accountability falls squarely on the shoulders of managers if they want to keep on top of project development. Here are seven ways I have found helpful and can allow leaders to create a culture of accountability in order to enhance their performance management.

Set clear expectations.

It’s essential that the desired outcome is crystal clear from day one. Employees need to be aware of the required steps to reach that goal and how performance will be measured. Discuss this directly with each individual to ensure there is full understanding — and put it in writing to reinforce that understanding.

A workplace accountability study by Partners in Leadership and announced in a press release found a “startling absence of clearly defined objectives.” The study also discovered 85% of employees weren’t even sure what their organizations are trying to achieve.

If no one knows the destination, no one is going to get there. The more clearly that managers outline expectations upfront, the less time will be wasted later reiterating and clarifying or, worse still, arguing about the lack of progress.

Get mutual agreement.

The road to achieving expectations is best traveled when there’s a partnership between managers and employees. Establish realistic targets and get a commitment to attain them so members of your team have ownership.

One way to do this is by showing employees how their involvement contributes to the company’s big picture success as well as their personal benefit through a rewards and recognition program. If you give the employee the opportunity to come up with their own solutions, you share the responsibility and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Provide support.

Don’t just set the employee loose without providing the tools that they need to accomplish their tasks. Accountability is a two-way street, and providing support is the manager’s side of the bargain. Make sure that they have all of the resources that they need, including the ability to reach out to you for answers to any stumbling blocks.

Monitor progress.

As projects develop, it’s important to track progress so that you can course-correct as necessary during a time when it is easier to implement changes. This is where specific short-term goals, as well as a specific ultimate goal, are valuable. For instance, instead of simply telling someone they need to step up their number of customer service calls, tell them they need to interact with at least 200 people.

Give feedback.

Let your employees know what they’re doing right as well as what they’re doing wrong each step of the way. Objective feedback opens the door for action-oriented discussions that get results. Feedback develops people who are accountable, boosts motivation and generates productivity. It’s essential. Without it, employees can easily veer off track.

Analyze effectiveness.

Review how you have handled the process to check how successful you have been. It’s fundamental for long-term success to make sure you have the right methods in place. It’s also a great way to keep you accountable.

One way to keep yourself accountable is to acknowledge any mistakes you have made. If you explain what you did wrong and how you corrected the situation, you will instill trust in your leadership.

Be compassionate.

Finally, while holding people accountable frequently means putting their feet to the fire, you shouldn’t burn them in the process.

The Covid-19 pandemic has stretched and stressed everyone to the max and, along the way, often led to a more understanding and compassionate workplace. You can maintain that environment by talking through the challenges of a project, helping them appreciate how they’ve grown as a result and emphasizing that you’re always available to help them.

Accountability is vital for a company’s growth. If you don’t hold employees accountable you create a culture of mediocrity. Adopting a policy in which — in partnership — everyone on the team strives to meet stated goals creates instead a positive, rewarding culture in which everyone is proud of the part they play.