Improving Employee Accountability

by: Stratford Managers

“So, you want your team to be more accountable? … It starts with you!”

Recently, I was talking to a client of mine who has a team of eight professionals.  She related to me how she wished her team was more accountable for results.  She felt that they all did a reasonably good job at the prescribed duties and responsibilities of their roles.  However, with regard to driving for significant results against the strategic goals of the department, nothing much was being achieved.  “There always seems to be a reason for not making progress”, she lamented.

Demonstrating accountability for achieving results and having a winning attitude to do so, has become a significant workplace issue for many of our clients.  The key question is, what can a manager do to make accountability part of the way that their employees embrace their work?

Overcoming the Fear of Confronting a Lack of Accountability

When I asked my client what she planned to do about the lack of accountability on her team, she said  she didn’t feel there was anything she could do.  When asked why not, she elaborated by saying that she did not think some members of her team would react well to her pushing them to do more.

Many managers fear the potential for conflict that may result from providing negative feedback.  They may fear:

  • How the employee will react to being confronted for their lack of performance (i.e. tears, anger, blaming)
  • How the employee will behave following being confronted (i.e. badmouthing the manager to others, not being a good team player, belittling the organization to others, purposely not abiding by policies and procedures, being demotivated to improve their performance)
  • What tactics the employee may resort to in order to get back at the manager (i.e. complain to the manager’s boss about the manager’s treatment of the employee, submitting a grievance to the HR department)
  • That the employee may threaten to resign or actually quit, creating a vacant role that will delay the workload and projects from being completed.

If You Want Greater Accountability from Your Team, YOU Need to Make It Happen

Fundamentally, it is every manager’s role to ensure that their employees achieve the critical results their job and their team was created to action.  Therefore, holding employees accountable is the essence of a manager’s work.  Managers can set the stage for creating accountability as the way their employees deliver on their work by demonstrating the following seven behaviours:

  1. Be an achiever. Personally, demonstrate a commitment to winning and getting results for oneself and the team.  Complete your own projects and tasks successfully.
  2. Build trust with team members. Get to know them and allow them to get to know you. Building rapport with each employee and the team makes it easier to engage in honest and direct discussions. Building trust is the foundation for developing a commitment to accountability.
  3. Communicate openly and regularly. Tell the team what’s going on in the business and set the context for the business goals and strategies. Be a reliable source of information.  Show the team that their knowledge of and involvement in the business is important.
  4. Communicate fully. When making requests spend the time explaining the context for the request, why the employee is the appropriate person to take on the request, how the request will serve the department, team or organization in achieving its results.
  5. Be fair and consistent in how you measure and evaluate performance. Be seen as a manager who checks the facts of a performance situation before they evaluate results.
  6. Demonstrate your commitment to your employees’ and team’s success. Be available to support the employee in their efforts. Personally, help remove road blocks to the employee’s and the team’s achieving success. Make and follow through on your commitments to support the employee in achieving their results.
  7. Discuss performance on a regular basis. Make discussing performance part of your normal routine.  Openly recognize and celebrate success on an individual and team basis. Openly admit when you have failed. Once all the facts are known, discuss individual or team failures on a timely basis and discuss what steps can be taken to improve results.

Employees will only demonstrate accountability for results if their manager models accountability in the way in which they manage and interact with their team.  It is up to you to be known as a manager that holds accountability as an essential element of winning and whose team achieves results.

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