As a leader, the primary goal before anything should be to inculcate workplace accountability. It is not an easy task for most people because they are uncomfortable and conscious of appearing too rigid and authoritative.
The reluctance is present also because employees might feel threatened and shamed with scorekeeping and tallying. The good news is that it can be learned and practiced. Research shows that inculcating accountability culture yields escalated performance, enhances decision making and encourages competency.
Accountability is the base for upskilling, motivating, and creating a formidable reputation. Let us learn how any company can benefit from taking some actionable steps.
What is Accountability in the workplace?
“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.”
― Courtney Lynch
It is more than merely completing tasks- it is taking ownership of the work you produce and sometimes also taking initiative. It is assuming responsibility for your actions, projects, and relationships with coworkers.
So, when a task/project is assigned to accountable employees, they will follow throughout the beginning and completion of the task because they know that there is value in their work and that it is essential to the completion of a larger project assigned to their co-workers.
In a way, their co-workers are dependent on their work.
Therefore, they know that they are in part responsible for the results. They will make sure to leave no stones unturned. They will communicate proactively and demonstrate accountability to
their co-workers as well. This commitment to work forms the backbone of the company and ultimately boosts performance.
Advantages of inculcating a Accountability Culture
- Increases engagement of employees and boosts their confidence.
- Creates an atmosphere of competency where each individual is entrusted with certain missions.
- A work culture built on accountability results in a commitment to innovation and creativity. In the knowledge economy, ideas and innovations can be revolutionary.
- With ownership being promoted, priorities, responsibilities, and expectations are addressed with clarity.
- The momentum of work outcome and morale is maintained, preventing missed deadlines.
How to Inculcate Accountability Culture?
1 Leaders must lead by example.
As a manager of the team, you are an integral part of work culture and performance. You are viewed as the benchmark by employees.
If you deliberately and frequently procrastinate, appear late to meetings, or even just dispel negative energy all the time, your employees will think it is okay to slack off because the leader couldn’t care less. Worse, it won’t be appropriate to reprimand them for something you are not following.
The effective ways you can lead by example?
- Be punctual to meetings. That way, you are not only respecting everyone’s time but also encouraging them to follow suit.
- Meet deadlines.
- Address problems right away.
- Encourage competency
- Volunteer to take on responsibilities. Take initiative.
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2 Provide support and updates on the project at hand.
Investing time in the professional development of the employees reaps many benefits. Employees feel that the bosses are not merely delegating tasks but are genuinely interested in supporting them professionally throughout their time in the organization.
They will be encouraged to acquire new knowledge and skills to become an asset to the company. Moreover, it will also make you a fantastic employer. To provide support, open up channels of communication by actively listening to each other. Don’t wait for timely reports and instead check in regularly.
It may help to work on soft skills like your emotional intelligence which are especially handy when dealing with internal conflicts. Research conducted by the American Psychological Association has found that emotional intelligence has a role in teamwork effectiveness.
Additionally, create an atmosphere where fear of reprimands and punishments doesn’t hinder growth.
Employees should feel comfortable learning from mistakes while also feeling comfortable taking calculated risks. A supportive leader helps the team cope with stressful moments, shows commitment, and inspires them to take on challenges.
3 Define roles and expectations with clarity.
Research by Gallup Study found only half of the employees were aware of what is exactly expected of them. It is important to define the roles because, in many situations, employees are hesitant to ask.
Only saying, “Do this as soon as possible” is vague and will leave the employees confused. All employees will have different understandings of what “soon” means. It could be a few hours, a week, a month, a year, etc.
Instead, precisely define specifics of parts of the project that need to be completed, that exact timeframe, expectations, provide examples, and describe the outcome.
Make sure that employees understand how their team goals align with larger organizational goals.
When employees are clear about what steps they must take, they also have the space to implement creative strategies to optimize results. Clear roles in driving key results motivate employees.
They can recognize the impact of their work on company-wide goals and are encouraged to pull their weight. Accountability frameworks like the RACI matrix, WHO Accountability Framework etc can be used to make it easier to be accountable.
4 Respect employees by appreciating and encouraging them to meet challenges.
Accountability tends to feel like surveillance that is fear-based. To avoid that, dignity should be the basis through which anything is communicated with employees in the company.
Managers must be able to gradually build trust and psychological safety. They should be aware of the impact their words might have. They should also acknowledge contributions.
Employees will feel close to the company, lines of communications will open and they will be intrinsically motivated to accomplish goals.
If they are not credited for their work or not respected in the place where they spend their day, they will fear management but not respect it. This is dangerous and if it cascades, it can lead to the gradual disintegration of teams.
5 Educate/ coach them on accountability.
While it is fairly easy to understand the basic idea behind accountability,it can be a task to grasp the concept of all aspects of accountability all at once.
If employees are new to the idea of accountability, it is a good idea to coach them on aspects of accountability instead of telling them to be accountable and expecting them to meet all the requirements.
For example, when a team member is failing to perform well or meet deadlines, they will inconvenience other team members and halt progress. Other team members are likely to feel agitated.
To mitigate this, employees must be taught how to issue a genuine apology of ownership and corrective steps that are free of excuses.
6 Instruct employees to provide reports, review progress and hold regular discussions.
Progress reports and reviews are a no-brainer. Employees must report on the status of their team-wide goals and individual goals. This can be done with a healthy blend of one-on-one meetings and team meetings.
Meetings held to discuss reports are also an opportunity for the manager to emphasize how their individual goals fit into the bigger picture or to explain what part employees are collectively playing to achieve goals that are of utmost importance to the company. You can schedule meetings using tools like google calendar, Task, etc.
Along with obligatory reports, informal conversations can be held where employees share the stories of their struggles and achievements. That way, the relationships from top-bottom will only improve.
When employees see their co-workers and bosses are genuinely interested in their achievements and their professional journey, they are likely to share their setbacks and professional struggles.
7 Dress smartly/professionally.
“Few places are more important for dressing appropriately than the workplace, where a professional appearance is crucial.”
― Susan C. Young.
Research published by Fisher Digital Publications has found that dressing professionally increases the perception of confidence and success. Dressing professionally influences how individuals perceive themselves, their abilities, and how others perceive them.
If there is an effort taken in dressing professionally, it has personal benefits too such as increasing self-respect and productivity.
After that, it might inspire you to make healthy tweaks in your personal life as well. First impressions count and a strong impression is a lasting impression.
8 Provide adequate constructive feedback.
Providing constructive feedback is a skill that a manager must develop. Research shows that self-efficacy or being associated with positive growth is a psychological tool. It will encourage employees to perform better to continue being associated with it.
Moreover, it has dual benefits of promoting both their personal and professional growth. Good feedback includes pointing out areas of potential improvement right away while highlighting positive parts. By procrastinating feedback, a small problem will only snowball into a big problem.
While positive feedback has its advantages, being able to communicate negative feedback is a greater skill. It promotes transparency and prevents repetitive mistakes. Remember, some feedback is better than no feedback at all.
Feedbacks not only improve communication and relationships but often have direct impacts on business growth. For example, more sales, better customer support reviews, increasing website views, etc.
Tips to provide constructive feedback:
- Don’t play the blame game. Rather, view them as areas of potential growth.
- Be clear and show examples or evidence of where exactly they could improve.
- Make sure they understand your feedback by giving them time, asking for suggestions, and by follow-ups.
- Be open-minded and encourage responses. Perhaps, they have feedback about your role that they will not otherwise share.
- Include them in the problem-solving process because they might have more suitable ideas.
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9 Talk about Consequences.
When you need to improve, you need to remind the team about the consequences of their actions linked to not being accountable. Evidence and examples to support the argument of what exactly went wrong make the process easier for both parties.
When doing this, it is important to focus on the work and not criticize them- no personal attacks. Alternatively, if they perform well reward them with a few words of encouragement and forms of incentives.
Bonuses can also be used. It is always best to give the employees time to understand the consequences.
Remember that if you fail to take timely action, employees will take their work casually and take action without thinking about the consequences.
Building Accountability When Working Remotely.
Many companies are shifting to work-at-home for various reasons. Remote teams may never meet each other and all the exchange of information is done online.
For this reason, trust and a shared sense of purpose can be challenging to build. Managers and leaders must take the lead to boost morale and provide direction to the team.
1 Create concrete metrics and set clear standards.
With every project, there are new expectations and expected outcomes. Accountability is taking responsibility for your work and measuring outcomes helps you understand how much you have accomplished.
You need to clearly explain outcomes to the team so it is easier for them to accept responsibility and work accordingly. To set clear expectations you can create monthly targets, clear objectives, and quantitative key results.
Do this with regular virtual team meetings and one-on-one meetings. If clear standards and outcomes are not stated, it can take a toxic turn of conflicts, dismissal, countless excuses, and the resignation of employees. This will be costly for the organization.
2 Leverage Technology.
Make use of management tools to track progress and create transparency. Monitoring tools can be of great help to inculcate accountability in a remote team.
To make things easier, make sure to have three pillars of management tools.
1- The tool should act as a task manager.
2- It should act as a calendar to keep track of deadlines and the beginnings of new projects.
3- It can take notes effectively.
Finally, they must be accessible to every employee. Transparency only increases trust amongst each other and in the company. Some examples of productivity tools are notion, ProofHub, nTask, Slack, and GanttPro.
3 Be flexible.
In online settings, it can be easy to forget that people on the other side of the screen are only human. Sometimes, cut them some slack and have meetings that are non-work related.
Non-work-related topics and team-building activities can also be used at the beginning of the meeting to break the ice before you jump into work-related issues.
If employees cannot attend meetings under genuine concerns such as poor internet connectivity, accept it and try to suggest alternative ways and hours they can do their work.
4 Hire suitably.
Hire genuine contributors and people who are adaptable. To do this, time and energy must be invested in the hiring process because suitable hiring at the correct time is also attributed to the growth of the company.
To hire well, you must know exactly what you are looking for in the employee. Asking for a recorded video before proceeding to the interview process is also a good way to save time. It is also critical to look for soft skills to judge if the candidate can adapt to the company culture.
Asking the candidates to complete a small task such as writing something if you are looking for a content writer or simply taking a personality quiz can be a great way to gain insights.
Attracting qualified and experienced individuals can also be done by building a vast and strong digital footprint.
Your online presence should be credible and trustworthy. Make use of the opportunity of being able to hire remotely. You have the opportunity to hire from a wide pool of talents.
5 Don’t micromanage or work employees overtime frequently.
It can be easy to forget the time when working from home. It can also be tempting to work with employees overtime if the mission is not accomplished in a particular time frame.
This might leave employees feeling micromanaged, burnt out, and not trusted. Instead, give them the flexibility to meet deadlines in their way without necessarily adhering to your timeframe.
Micromanaging can also leave employees feeling smothered. To avoid this, create a workflow with the employees and try to always set a healthy environment where learning is a continuous process.
Create a work from home policy that defines the number of working hours which is also in some ways flexible. That way the standard of on-site working is met and employees have nothing to complain about.
Bonus Tips to Remember to inculcate Accountability Culture
- Maintain good relationships with co-workers.
- Take feedback from employees as well. Feedback should be a two-way process.
- Have a positive attitude even when facing obstacles.
- Be adaptable and flexible in face of challenges.
- Always look for areas of improvement because they are opportunities in disguise.
Accountability should not be avoided for all the negative connotations it might have. Rather, it is a strategy that must be used to advantage. The key is to be able to communicate well.
A major weight of inculcating a healthy culture of accountability in the workplace is dependent on managers/leaders.
They should be able to do it in a way that boosts morale and fosters productivity while also acknowledging achievements and pointing out areas of potential improvement. Accountability is not about punishment for every misstep or pointing fingers at people.
It is about ownership of actions and a journey of learning. Again, focus on the work at hand and not the person. Do not disrespect them at all costs and treat them with dignity.
In a workplace where accountability is inculcated, each employee is held responsible. Employees realize that their actions have far-reaching impacts on the team and the wider organization.
The secret to high-performing organizations is that aware outcomes and accountability are inextricably linked. A workplace with an accountability culture encourages employees to ask, “What more can I do? How can I improve? How can we accomplish this efficiently?”
Additionally, encourage calculated risk-taking and keep in mind that employees may have better ideas. Accountability Culture in the workplace also means a culture of trust, cooperation, and transparency.