Taking accountability is one of the important aspects of having a successful work environment with a team of committed people who trust each other. In other words, being accountable means taking ownership of one's actions and being able to commit to work no matter what, so you succeed in fulfilling the expectations you set for yourself and others.
Even though the presence of accountability is important, there are still many companies where it’s not being taken seriously or not implemented at all. In fact, according to the Partners in Leadership Workplace Accountability Study, it was found that 82% of respondents said they have “limited to no” ability to hold others accountable successfully. This number is of course concerning, so what can be done to implement accountability in workplaces more successfully?
This starts happening when you prioritize accountability
There are certainly many benefits when it comes to implementing accountability as one of the main assets in your company. Many of them have a lot in common because accountability creates a better work environment where people can trust each other, and know they will expect support from others.
The first benefit of prioritizing accountability in your workplace is having trust. This comes in both forms of you being able to trust others and they are able to trust you. Imagine working in an environment where you’re unsure of what people promise you will be also done. This creates a lot of delays in for example a group task where more people are needed to work together in order to deliver the final project. For you as a leader in your workplace having trust means improving relationships with the people you work with, especially in terms of communication.
Involvement and participation
The second benefit of prioritizing accountability leads to better involvement of people in the processes they’re part of. Not only that, but they will feel more responsible for what they’re handling and therefore, will strive to deliver their work of better quality. This may include using more innovative ideas or more creativity and being honest with others about the expectations and deadlines related to the tasks.
Culture of ownership
When you’re working in a place where you know you can trust each other, everyone stays behind their word and responsibility is a familiar concept for them, then it can create a culture of ownership. This makes a lot of work processes easier because the overall work environment becomes more transparent and there’ll be fewer uncertain factors. In such an environment, people tend to hold themselves accountable for their actions and commit more to the tasks and overall work they’re part of. The culture of ownership leads to stronger bonds as well as to integrity. Working in such a team will also lead to increased satisfaction with the environment people are part of.
Better performance → Better results
Having a team of people you can trust and they can trust you, feeling committed to the people you’re working with, willing to use more creativity and innovation, and experiencing increased participation and involvement creates a much better working environment. All of these factors make it easier to have a better performance at work and also make it pleasurable to be working in such an environment. All of these positive aspects lead then to better results for the company.
This is what lack of accountability does to a workplace
Even though implementing accountability as a core value in a workplace can lead to a lot of benefits, there are still many workplaces that don’t prioritize it. Here’s a list of things about how the lack of accountability can impact the overall work environment.
Lack of accountability can lead to unclear priorities and overall working structure. When you’re unaware of who’s accountable for what then it creates a lot of misunderstandings and makes the overall working experience more complicated and confusing. Unclear priorities and unfulfilled expectations will then create missed deadlines and the set goals will not be met in the end.
Low team morale
Working in a place where no one is being held accountable for what they’re doing and they’re not putting effort into taking responsibility for what’s going on it will have an impact on the overall team morale. The team morale will certainly decrease because it’s very discouraging to work in an environment where you can’t really rely on your team. This will soon lead to decreased motivation and later on to lowered performance.
Another effect of the lack of accountability in a workplace can certainly lead to high turnover. Imagine this. You’re working with a group of people who don’t really put effort into the quality that they’re delivering and know that they can’t really rely on their co-workers either. This belief comes from a chain of repeated experiences of when the people they’re working with didn’t do what they said in the first place and so the expectations were not met. Sooner or later some of the co-workers will get tired of working in such an environment and they’ll decide to relocate to a healthier one. What this means for the company is extra costs for recruiting and training new people.
All of the above-mentioned factors will lead to one thing - not reaching goals. When there’s no one who wants to take responsibility, is not reliable, and doesn’t really care about meeting the expectations and deadline, then it will have surely a negative impact on the team’s performance. This will create a lot of missed deadlines, unclear communication, loads of misunderstandings, and of course not achieving the desired results.
Let’s now get to the most important part of this article. Here are a couple of simple things you can do in your workplace to introduce accountability. Many of them can be easily applicable and the best thing is that you can start already today.
Making it a core value
One of the ways of implementing accountability and really making it a priority is to include it in the core values of your company. This of course should come with a plan on how exactly would you like to have it implemented and with what instances will you start. Is it going to be done by talking to people directly and saying what needs to be said or demonstrating transparency or maybe evaluating the progress of your employees individually and monitoring the journey towards their goals? It’s up to you with what you would like to start but remember that every little step or even a small change can get you closer to creating a place where accountability is more valued.
Setting clear expectations
This one may be quite obvious but is definitely essential. Having clear expectations creates better guidelines for a less confusing work structure because everyone is familiar with their roles and understands what they’re responsible for. Moreover, everyone knows how to execute their tasks and is familiar with what’s the impact of not fulfilling them. This creates a culture of ownership.
SMART goals can help build a crystal clear picture of what’s happening for everyone. They help to create a workplace structure with clear expectations, and goals and remove the confusion around how the work should be done. Thanks to these goals everyone in the team can see what are others responsible for and if they don’t manage to accomplish the results, they’ll be held accountable to the rest of the team.
Having the 5C framework
Implementing the so-called 5C framework can also help to create a workplace environment where accountability is more valued. This includes:
A common purpose → is essential that as a team you’ve aligned with your purpose, goals, and aspirations and that you’re all heading in the same direction.
Clear expectations → as mentioned above it is important to clearly define each individual’s roles and responsibilities so there aren’t misunderstandings when it comes to ownership of one’s work or tasks.
Communication and alignment → remind your team why what they're doing is important and what impact it has on the overall results of the whole group. Show them to focus on the same goal and encourage involvement, participation, and active communication.
Collaboration and coaching → actively participate in monitoring the processes and progress of your team members, but don’t Also, remember to listen and to be open to feedback.
Consequences → can be also viewed as positive ones. Try to show your employees what they can gain from an experience and how they can expand their skill set and learn new things.
Being proactive instead of reactive
Another way how to be accountable is to be initiative and go out of your way to help others. This also comes into perspective in situations where the incoming problem is not very visible yet.
If you go out of your way and make the extra step to check on the situation, this may prevent the problem from getting bigger and reacting before the whole situation escalates. This way you will save the situation in a timely manner before it has become a major issue.
Holding yourself accountable
One of the best practices of accountability is to be willing to learn things from others. This comes down to being able to communicate with others even when your opinions are polarizing and you may have some disagreements. It’s also vital to be able to receive criticism or feedback without taking offense. Be mindful and open to different points of view. You being accountable in such situations will lead to the creation of a more trusting relationship with others.
Another example of holding yourself accountable is speaking up when you are seeing something wrong and being honest about it. This can be shown as an example of leadership where you’re showing the right way.
Accountability is the key to having a successful teamwork experience where everyone knows their responsibilities and strives to achieve the common goal. After reading the above-mentioned tips, you can go and make that first step towards creating an environment where accountability is highly prioritized.