When one person doesn’t pull their weight, the whole team suffers. We know this intuitively, and yet we still sometimes struggle with team members who over-promise and underdeliver. Sometimes that’s simply because they underestimated how much time a project would take or something happened that was beyond their control. Other times, however, it’s because they procrastinated, failed to communicate with the right people, or didn’t follow guidelines.
These kinds of situations can plague team leaders, especially when they are answerable to other people (as most of us are). That’s why team accountability is so important. When you build accountability into the culture of your organization, you can set teams up for success and foster productive collaboration.
An accountable team:
- Follows through on commitments
- Meets deadlines
- Communicates when things happen beyond their control
- Makes consistent progress toward goals
- Takes ownership of results
- Is open to feedback
- Resolves conflict productively
Building a team like that takes intentional strategic investment, but it’s well worth the effort.
Here are 5 things you can do to build accountability into your team strategy.
Emphasize Personal Accountability
Personal accountability starts with you as the leader. By setting goals and taking responsibility for your actions, you demonstrate the value of owning your outcomes.
Because teams are made up of individuals, personal accountability is also the key to productive teams. When each team member is reliably responsible for their piece of the puzzle, the whole team succeeds.
You can emphasize personal accountability among team members by encouraging individual goal setting, scheduling regular check-ins, and providing feedback.
Set Clear Expectations
Vague expectations set teams and projects up for failure. Without clear expectations, contributors don’t know who is responsible for which tasks, which roles are assigned to which team members, or how their work fits into the whole. This is a recipe for frustration and conflict, especially in remote work environments where it’s harder to check in.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Setting clear expectations up front helps team members work productively and maintain momentum. Expectations should be specific, measurable, and time-stamped. Team members should understand what a successful outcome looks like, and they should know how their work fits into each phase of the project so they don’t hold others up or cause the project to run behind schedule.
Encourage Peer-to-Peer Accountability.
Research indicates that the highest-performing teams are those in which peers hold one another accountable. When every team member feels free to offer constructive feedback, the team takes on a collaborative identity rather than feeling micromanaged by a boss. Leaders can foster this kind of culture by modeling positive conflict resolution, teaching communication skills in team meetings, and recognizing positive examples of accountability taking place in the team.
Prioritize Planning and Goal-Setting
Goal-setting and planning help teams understand where they are headed and how they will get there. That’s important both at the project level and at the individual contributor level. Small investments in planning on the front end can save a lot of wasted time throughout the project.
For example, leaders can encourage daily and weekly individual planning exercises so that team members know what they’ll be working on and when. Leaders can check in with individual team members to see how their workload looks, evaluate their number of commitments, and align work with the overall team priorities.
That’s not to say that everything has to be planned rigidly right up front. Plans should be flexible enough to accommodate feedback, scope changes, or urgent needs as they arise. Still, having a plan in place provides structure and accountability metrics so the team can stay on track.
Communication is perhaps the most important aspect of team accountability. Regular, open communication helps leaders and teams work together toward a common goal and improves transparency. Communication should include:
- Project Details – Dates, timelines, roles, objectives, and results should all be communicated in detail so everyone knows where the team is headed.
- Progress Updates – Keep the team informed on how work is progressing and let them know when speed bumps occur. Team members can also provide daily or weekly status updates to keep everyone in the loop.
- Specific Feedback – As team members share updates, leaders and peers should provide constructive feedback that keeps everyone moving in the same direction.
- Recognition for Successes – Intentional recognition provides motivation and support as the team progresses toward a goal. Whether that’s a quick email or a public acknowledgement, recognition helps team members know that their contributions are valued.
Team accountability helps you set the right expectations for team members and guide teams toward more effective results. Our Accountability and Delegation course gives you the skills you need to make that happen. Join us for this course and other leadership offerings in our Making the Connection Leadership Series!