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6 Ways to Foster Positive Accountability in Your Team

"Open collaboration encourages greater accountability, which in turn fosters trust."
Ron Garan, Retired NASA astronaut

Think back to high school and college group projects—several people with different personality types, skill sets, and motivation levels were grouped together by the teacher and given a long-term task to complete. More often than not, the responsibility of the entire project would fall on the shoulders of one or two group members, allowing the other members of the group to receive the same grade without putting forth the same amount of effort.

Similarly, this challenge exists in today’s modern workplace where team members and leaders struggle with accountability in working together to achieve their long-term goals. However, it’s important for team leaders to avoid the pitfall that many teachers in the aforementioned example faced—this can be done by using positive accountability strategies in your leadership.

Everyone on the Team Benefits from Accountability

Just like with those school projects, your team is made of a mixed bag of experience levels and personality types, with each person’s approach to their work directly affecting everyone else’s productivity. As a leader it is not always easy to remain patient when some of your team’s time-management or work quality is in question. However, by adopting a positive approach to communicating with your team members, you can hold them accountable to complete tasks efficiently and effectively.

Holding employees accountable for their role in meeting a business’ goals can be challenging. Studies show that at every level of a company, employees cite accountability as something they want and need more of.

In fact, research shows the following:

  • 82 percent of leaders admitted to having “limited to no” ability to hold team members accountable successfully (Starner, 2015).
  • 91 percent of employees responded that “effectively holding others accountable” is one of the top leadership development needs.
  • 21 percent of employees strongly agree they have performance metrics within their control (Wigert & Harter, 2017).

Employees want accountability for themselves and for others. Managers and team leaders want to successfully hold their team to a fair standard of performance. However, in the same vein employees do not want to constantly have management looking over their shoulders, nor does leadership want to assume the worst about their employees when work is not getting done. That’s why we’ve compiled 6 ways to use positivity in your approach to fostering accountability within your team.

6 Tips to Foster Positive Accountability in Your Team

It’s important to consider how to hold your team responsible for completing the tasks assigned to their role, while also motivating them to produce results that lead to company success.

Tip #1: Provide Clear Expectations and Set Clear Goals

When your team understands the project and their role in completing it, they are able to do their job more effectively. Outlining a clear set of expectations and distinct short-term and long-term goals will ensure that employees understand their assignment and the path they must follow to produce the desired results.

By ensuring every team member understands the role of their position, the details of a project, and the expectations of their day-to-day activities, your employees will be able to focus on working toward meeting their measurable, relevant goals. In turn, you as the team leader can then easily communicate based around these predetermined expectations and goals.

Tip #2: Lead by Example

As a manager, you are responsible for setting the tone and culture within the team. You can do this by modeling the type of behavior, actions, and performance you want to see from your team. For instance, if you ask your team members to perform specific daily check-ins, you can model this by checking in with the team in the same manner as you ask them. If you want work produced following a particular system of steps or through showing a specific type of evidence of performing a task, doing so yourself will showcase what successful completion of a task looks like for the rest of your team.

Whether it’s holding employees accountable for appropriate workplace decorum or it’s expecting them to meet deadlines on time, demonstrating examples through your own behavior is a positive way of showing your team how to present themselves professionally and responsibly.

Tip #3: Coach in the Moment

Sometimes employees are unsure of their performance until it’s the time of year for their official workplace review. It’s possible that since all of the feedback from their job performance has been saved for the review period, your team member assumes they’ve been doing what they need to do in the way you need them to do it.

Instead of saving all feedback for a performance review, it’s important to “coach in the moment.” This will ensure your team understands expectations immediately, and gives them the opportunity to continue to meet the goals ahead of them. When teaching in the moment, it’s important to:

  • Give suggestions for ways to fix whatever issues you see or ask the employee how they think they can improve on a particular task.
  • Provide feedback in a way to genuinely help your team members grow, avoiding unnecessary or irrelevant criticisms.
  • Be specific with the language you use to communicate the information you want the team member to understand.
  • Make yourself available for follow up questions.

Tip #4: Praise Success

One of the best ways to make your company’s expectations clear and to foster a positive sense of accountability in your team is to celebrate success. Sharing positive outcomes with the team and upper management to praise a job well done truly motivates employees to want to succeed. This demonstrates support for your team and keeps up the morale for the individual, team, and company.

Tip #5: Establish a Culture of Ownership

When a team member is given ownership over a task, project, or client relationship, they will often shoulder that responsibility with a sense of pride. It is human nature to want to impress when given the ownership over a major responsibility. Team members who see that the company’s leadership trust and respect them enough to have ownership over something will often aspire to perform well. By giving them this opportunity and showing you trust them, they will work hard and hold themselves accountable for the success of the project.

Tip #6: Check In Frequently

Instead of relying on periodic performance reviews and meetings, check in with your team often in both one-on-one meetings and group settings. Meetings and regular check-ins offer an opportunity to share project progress reports, celebrate success stories, and set new, achievable goals. Always keeping the line of communication open between you and your team is a positive way to foster accountability.

Schedule a Consultation for Leadership Consulting and Strategic Planning

Your business deserves to have team members who want to produce results. Employees who feel a sense of ownership and accountability for what they contribute to your team will strive for excellence, resulting in positive outcomes for the organization. At Woodland Strategies, we offer executive leadership coaching to help you elevate your team’s performance, focus on accountability, and create a positive environment with high morale. To schedule a free consultation, fill out our form to get started.

Carucci, Ron. Harvard Business Review. “How to Actually Encourage Employee Accountability.” November 23, 2020. Accessed online 8/12/2022. Starner, Tom. HR Dive. “Workplace Accountability Requires a Specific Strategy.” June 2, 2015. Accessed online 8/12/2022. Wigert, Ben & Harter, Jim. Gallup. “Re-Engineering Performance Management.” 2017. Accessed online 8/12/2022.

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