When we ask managers - what is your greatest challenge in leading and managing your direct reports? - poorly accountable team members is one of the most common responses.
When people are more accountable for their own work, results and the decisions they make, their organization becomes much more effective. If you want your team to be great rather than mediocre, you need to hold yourself and others accountable for actions, decisions, time milestones and quality of work. On-time and quality work generates energy for the whole team and organization. Doesn't everyone want to be proud of what they and their team produces?
Leaders must manage the intake and output of production expectations for a team. This starts by setting realistic expectations for each team member and then holding them accountable for meeting those expectations. Unrealistic demands on people cause likely burn-out.
When you expect more from your team than they are capable of producing, accountability and responsibility break down. If your team feels that there is no hope for being able to produce what you are driving, the system may begin to shut down.
Make sure you have a strong and clear framework for regular two-way communication about project scope, resources and timelines. That way you'll get timely feedback which will allow you to intervene if necessary.
Strike a balance between inspecting daily or weekly progress and giving autonomy to employees to take full ownership of their own work. Individuals will need different amounts of supervision, but the more you can empower team members to make decisions and drive results for themselves, the stronger accountability becomes.
When teams and individuals are not empowered and held accountable for owning projects or processes, pitfalls await.
Give people ownership and responsibility for their own work!
Many leaders say that a lack of accountability among their team members and direct reports is a key issue affecting their organization. Poor accountability often stems from a lack of clear expectations and roles. As the leader, it is your responsibility to make sure that everyone understands their role, what is expected of them, and desired outcomes.
The number one reason why people don't do what you want them to do is that they don't know WHAT you want them to do. Help others accept responsibility by communicating with them, not at them, and make sure they understand what you expect of them. Encourage questions and feedback.
People are naturally more likely to be accountable when they are working with a clear vision of the results of their efforts. What impact will their contribution make? Who will benefit? How will it help the team, the organization, the customer?
Employees who know the task but not the purpose of it might not care about project expectations and deadlines driven from the top. By painting the bigger picture and making sure team members keep it in mind, you'll create urgency, energy and focus. Inspire people to invest in success by giving them a reason to do so and include them in the decision making process as much as possible. You'll see results achieved on time and with quality.
There are few things more demoralizing than a manager who expects accountability from his team but doesn't keep commitments himself.
Accountability is about integrity. Accountability starts with you. When something goes wrong, shoulder responsibility as the team lead, fix the issues, and implement processes to prevent future mishaps. If a team member caused the problem don't throw him under the bus. Do, however, include him in developing and delivering the solution if you can so that he has a chance to make amends.