How do you hold your team accountable for the results they need to deliver?

Accountability is about delivering on a commitment and is achieved by bringing together the required skills, resources, and timely action. Sadly, the language used for accountability evokes the picture of consequences associated with targets not being met. This often feels harsh and causes employees to hide mistakes or point fingers elsewhere.

But accountability does not begin when it is seen as lacking. Rather, it is a proactive approach to managing business. The basic requirements to foster accountability are –

Establish Clear Expectations.  It starts with well-defined and shared expectations, i.e., determining the why, what, who, and by when you need your team to deliver what you expect from them. Expectations are clear when framed with verbs rather than adjectives or nouns, e.g., phrasing the goal of “customer-centricity” as “achieve a CSAT score of x%” clarifies it. Allowing your team to contribute to these definitions lets them own their goals.

Stay focused on progress. Include processes and tools to keep everyone focused on progress e.g., OKRs/KPIs, reminders of commitment, and dashboards of milestones reached when discussed in one-on-one and team meetings, track and acknowledge progress, surface concerns, and address challenges. These are also opportunities for providing actionable feedback to team members to help them improve their performance.

Create psychological safety. It is difficult to assess risk when people struggle to admit their challenges and struggles. However, despite the rhetoric about learning from failures, efforts to resolve problems are sidelined even if they move the team closer to the intended outcome. The hard fact is that no matter how diligently you create goals and evaluate progress, things will inevitably go wrong. It is critical to provide psychological safety for employees to express their difficulties. This is your chance to coach and guide them to comprehend the problem and develop feasible solutions.

Use appropriate rewards and consequences. It is critical to strike a balance between the growth mindset and accountability. So keep an eye out for positive behavior, and reinforce it with appropriate rewards. In order to inspire, the rewards given to recipients must be proportionate to their behavior and of value to them. The consequences must also be appropriate to the situation.

If nothing works, allow for a graceful exit. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is to let go of someone who is unable to perform despite all the support. The entire team suffers when someone regularly underperforms. The individual may get worried and demotivated, while colleagues may become resentful for having to pick up slack often.

To summarize, accountability is not about punishing people. It is about following through on promises, accepting responsibility for outcomes, and managing business proactively. You can develop a culture of accountability in your organization by setting clear objectives, tracking results, fostering psychological safety, using appropriate rewards and consequences, and allowing for a gracious exit when necessary.

PS : Share your experience of making your team accountable. Book a pressure free meeting if you feel you need help to build accountability in your teams.