Fostering This Trait Is One of the Hardest Things for Leaders to Get Right
Customers expect companies to follow through on their commitments. You feel the same way about your team. So how do you foster a culture of accountability?
As a business owner, your customers want to know that their vendors and partners are working to deliver exactly what was promised on time. That's why driving a culture and mindset of accountability comes with significant benefits for entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, many business owners struggle with driving accountability on their teams. Here are some of the best practices for running an accountability-focused organization.
1. Accountability starts and ends with you
People naturally strive to model themselves after those around them. As the leader of your organization, it's important to set a good example when it comes to accountability. Leaders who fail to keep their commitments or own their responsibilities will send the wrong message to their teams, giving employees little reason to be accountable themselves.
As you model good, accountable behavior, your employees will take notice. It's also critical for business owners to understand that they are accountable for holding their team accountable.
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2. Establish rules around accountability
Accountability means something different to each person. Be sure to clarify what accountability means to you as the business owner and what rules employees are expected to follow. Ultimately, it's your responsibility to define accountability within your organization, but here are some guidelines to get you started:
- Accountability can't be delegated: Employees need to take ownership of things that they are accountable for and not shift blame to others.
- There should never be any surprises: If an employee is at risk of missing a deadline, they should communicate any challenges early.
- Excuses won't be accepted: Encourage the team to think about solutions rather than excuses.
3. Implement tools to help with accountability
An easy way to drive accountability is to create systems and tools that can track and monitor progress on key deliverables. This can be accomplished through home-grown Excel-based trackers or off-the-shelf solutions such as Trello. These tools help provide visibility to ensure that important tasks are completed on time and don't slip through the cracks.
When tracking progress on key deliverables, make sure that you are getting objective updates. It's easy for employees to give updates like "I believe I'm on track to complete this by the deadline". Instead, encourage them to provide tangible updates such as "I'm 25% complete with the programming of the new product".
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4. Clearly define scope and deadlines
It's difficult to hold people accountable for deliverables that have an unclear scope or deadline. Always review the scope of work and expectations to ensure that you and your employee are on the same page. Oftentimes, missing the mark isn't a result of poor accountability, but a misalignment of the actual outcome.
Also, be sure to have clear expectations on the completion date. While there might be business-critical deadlines that aren't flexible, try to allow the employee to drive the completion date. It's much easier to hold them accountable if they are the ones who provide the completion timeframe.
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5. Track progress of milestones and deliverables
Getting regular updates from your team helps ensure they are on track to complete the tasks they are accountable for and allows you to support them where needed. However, be cautious not to bog your team down with excessive update meetings. Spending hours and hours in meetings asking your team for updates can actually hurt their ability to meet their obligations. Instead, swap a 30-minute meeting for a weekly email update that takes five minutes. This will free up more time for them to spend on their milestones and deliverables.
6. Hold the team accountable
Ultimately, you are responsible for holding your team accountable for their performance. This is where many entrepreneurs struggle. Holding employees accountable can be difficult and isn't usually a pleasant experience. However, there are ways to make the process easier.
First, make sure that employees are aware of the risks and negative consequences that come with failing to be accountable. If you are upfront about potential consequences, employees won't be surprised if you need to take action.
Don't wait until annual performance reviews to address issues with accountability. It's best to do this at the moment when the issue is fresh. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, focus on what actions can be taken to get the issue back on track. Also, be sure to properly document these conversations in the event you need to escalate repercussions to official write-ups or termination. If issues persist, you may need to consider if they have a future with your organization.
Finally, as a leader, you never want to focus entirely on the negative. Although performance issues should be addressed, always take time to praise employees who are exceptionally dependable and accountable.
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