Accountability in the workplace is a process through which all employees are held responsible for their actions, behaviors, performance and decisions. Numerous studies have shown a strong connection between accountability and the effectiveness of individuals and teams in achieving their goals. Accountability is also linked to improved morale, better productivity, employee retention and engagement, and higher profits.
At the heart of accountability is work and communication. To be held accountable, employees must first understand the broad areas for which they are accountable. There also needs to exist a clear understanding of goals or, in some cases, the specific work or actions necessary to achieve a goal. Routine progress reports to and feedback from a manager, team, or coach should be used to monitor and shape outcomes against goals. Without any of these key components of accountability, there will exist both a lack of efficiency in work and clarity of outcomes.
Unfortunately, the process of accountability is oftentimes viewed in a negative light. This likely arises from poor leadership and management practices or from “closed” mindsets. Employees want to be challenged. They want to offer creative insights on work for which they are accountable. They don’t want to be dictated to or told what to do as often this is taken as demeaning and demotivating. Leaders and managers should be encouraged to follow these five basic accountability principles to avoid the pitfalls of poor accountability practices.
- Set The Goalpost – Define individual roles and responsibilities using job descriptions and the company’s organizational chart.
- Define Expectations – All employees should share a common understanding of the company’s values and vision and should be assigned at least 1 or 2 goals for which they are responsible and held accountable.
- Get Out Of The Way – Give employees the freedom of creative expression in formulating plans and taking actions to achieve their goals or tasks. Accept mistakes as a critical part of success.
- Communicate – Coordinate frequent and structured feedback sessions between each employee and his/her manager or team. This is a great time to praise good performance and to invoke consequences, even if it’s hard to do so.
- Encourage Learning – Tie accountability to learning by setting personal development goals as a foundation for learning and personal growth.
It’s also important to recognize that management is ultimately responsible for the process of accountability and for getting great results from accountability from employees. Accountability starts at the top. The titles of “Business Owner”, “Executive”, “Manager” and “Top-Performer” does not come with an exemption status for accountability. Those who equate accountability with success, must also accept that accountability starts at the top. In doing so, your employees will follow and see accountability as a necessary and positive force for change and getting great results.