Accountability is an odd concept. It has been defined as having the responsibility and authority to act and fully accept the natural and logical consequences for the results of those actions. Personal accountability is an admirable trait, one that everyone should strive to attain. But as a leader, or even as a high-functioning member of a team, it is essential to create a culture of accountability for individuals and the group as a whole.

While some may attach a negative air to the word accountability, research indicates that holding people accountable for their results has very positive effects: greater accuracy of work, better response to role obligations, more vigilant problem solving, better decision making, more cooperation with co-workers, and higher team satisfaction.

At its foundation, the tips for creating a culture of accountability are S.I.M.P.L.E.:

  • Set expectations
  • Invite commitment
  • Measure progress
  • Provide feedback
  • Link to consequences
  • Evaluate effectiveness

But as it goes with all foundations, there must be a firm structure added in addition to having a complete building. Here are several additional tips to help build a culture of accountability.

Set expectations

It is important to set firm, clear, and concise expectations for any group. Accountability will not grow where team members are unsure of the group’s purpose and vision. Teams need to know what is expected of them before they in turn can be expected to be held accountable.

You can set expectations by:

  • Clearly communicating the team’s mission and vision.
  • Emphasizing the urgency and importance of whatever task you have assigned.
  • Laying out the standards that will be upheld throughout the process. Be specific regarding end results, time frames, and expected levels of effort.
  • Clearly and explicitly defining each member’s role and responsibilities.

The clearer initial goals and expectations are, the less time will be spent arguing when someone is held accountable because of ambiguous initial goals.

Invite Commitment

Although you may make these initial conditions and goals clear, it is important to have the team members commit to these standards and expectations. Work with your team to make sure that everyone commits to their role, understanding how it will benefit both the individual and the team. Be sure to put it in writing, too. This will give the commitment a physical representation that cannot be debated.

Accountability grows when this connection is made, and is enhanced when other people are aware of the commitment. Team members are further motivated to accomplish their tasks and will more readily welcome you holding them accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

Measure progress

Measure the progress of team members in alignment with the goals and expectations set out at the beginning. Goals can only be measured when they are quantified. Compare the measured results to the goals to find out where team members need the most improvement.

Provide feedback

After setting clear expectations, committing to set goals, and measuring progress, it is important to provide feedback to team members so that there can be improvement towards the goal. When creating a culture of accountability, make sure that the feedback that you do give highlights both the positive things that the team member has done and the areas where they can improve.

There are several methods of providing feedback that you can research. One example is the Rose, Bud, Thorn method.

No matter which method you may prefer to use, here are some tips to give the best feedback possible:

  • Talk about the work and behavior, not the person.
  • Work with your team member to improve the situation.
  • Don’t harp.

Link to consequences

Not all people are driven by internal motivating factors. So, in creating a culture of accountability, it is important to emphasize the link to consequences, whether as a ‘whip’ behind the team members to drive them forward, or as a carrot for them to chase. As a leader, it is key to assess and realize which type of motivation different people may need.

Evaluate effectiveness

Not all methods of operation are effective! Waiting until the end of the process or project to evaluate the effectiveness can severely hamper the potential of you as an individual or your team as a whole. Step aside and assess the plan and the participating team members. Evaluate the effectiveness of each component, good and bad, in relation to the goal and mission.

Creating a culture of accountability does not end with evaluating effectiveness, and it is not established by going through this process one time. Once you take stock in the efficiency of the process and team, use the information you have gained to improve the process moving forward.

Bonus

Creating a culture of accountability will lead to creating a team full of Directly Responsible Individuals (DRI).

When assigning a task, make sure that at the end of the day, a single person is responsible for its completion. It is acceptable to have a team helping to get it done, but when something goes wrong that person is the only one accountable. This eliminates confusion and opportunities to blame someone else.

What have you done to create or promote a culture of accountability? Share those tips below! 

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