“It is not only what we do, but what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” –Moliere
If your workplace is free of accountability, it is likely filled with blame and distrust. When a project fails or a client leaves, it is natural for people to want answers, which may lead to suspicion and finger-pointing. An accountability-free workplace can easily turn ugly.
As David Gebler, author of The 3 Power Values, says, “Accountability is the number one success factor in any change effort.” If leadership does not hold their team accountable, it is difficult for integrity to be taken seriously. In a workplace where “anything goes” and inaction or missteps are ignored, there is little motivation to do good work. In such a haphazard culture, employees can miss deadlines, show up late, refuse to hold up their end of a project, or mishandle clients…all without consequence.
Unfortunately, many workplaces lack a clear system of accountability. Margery Weinstein of Training Mag cites a Workplace Accountability Study which reveals that “82 percent of respondents admit they have limited-to-no ability to hold others accountable successfully.” This number is especially startling because 91 percent of respondents said that accountability is one of the “top leadership development needs in their organization.”
This lack of accountability may cause interpersonal conflicts, distrust, or the constant need to make excuses. It also allows the dominant personalities in your workplace to direct the company’s ethics. The behavior of influential individuals can easily sway the entire tone of the workplace (which may or may not be a good thing!).
What to do? As a leader, it is tempting to react to a lack of accountability by hovering over your team and micro-managing their every move. There are many reasons why this is a flawed approach (some of which I address in a past blog post), but suffice it to say that your work team will not react well to micro-managing. However, a culture of accountability can be created without setting your team member’s schedules or closely monitoring their work projects. It’s all about striking a balance.
Here are five tips for creating a system of accountability in your workplace:
Clearly Communicate Expectations
Set your team up for success by clearly communicating goals, deadlines, and expected outcomes. Your team members should also understand the consequences of failing to meet a particular aspect of a project or action.
Articulate Your Team’s Value
“When employees aren’t valued, they’re less likely to be engaged with their work,” (Sean Pomeroy, Talent Culture.com). Make sure each member of your team is aware of their worth and the value they bring to the team. Communicate often and openly to your employees to let them know you appreciate their contributions.
Don’t deliver empty warnings. If you’ve made it clear that those who do not meet a specific project deadline will be removed from the project, then follow through with that disciplinary action. You may choose to use a three-strike system to soften the blow for those who have erred for the first or second time. However, be sure to talk to the offender, even if it’s her first time making a mistake, so she knows what your expectations are for the future.
Hold Yourself to the Same Standards
Lead by example. If you make a mistake, own up to it and articulate how you will correct the error and take preventative action so that the same mistake will not occur in the future. If you are exempt from being held accountable, how can you effectively enforce accountability?
Treat Mistakes as Learning Opportunities
Instead of sweeping mistakes under the rug, making excuses, or becoming overly distraught, try to look at workplace errors as an opportunity. Talk openly about the mistake with your team and strategize ways to overcome it and create a better system for the future.
Company leadership has the power to create a culture of accountability. When all members of a workplace community assume personal responsibility for their actions and inactions, the company can focus on solutions and strategy, rather than blame and distrust.