What is Accountability?
Accountability is determined proactively, before the fact, not re-actively after the fact. If a mistake is made, the response is not to cast blame, point fingers or make excuses but instead, it is about solving the problem and learning from the mistake. Accountability leads to every employee feeling a sense of ownership for successful project results and doing what is required to achieve those results.
Accountability in an organization will lead to transparency and motivated, empowered employees. Accountability begins with the project manager who is accountable to the stakeholders for successful project outcomes. The project manager requires the leadership skills to create and install accountability within a team and this needs to begin at the start of a project.
So, how can you implement accountability within your team? The following 6 tips can help you to create accountability in your team.
Define Clear Expectations and Results
Set clear guidelines, standards, and expectations before the project has begun. Make sure that all employees are aware of what results the organization wants to achieve and what is expected from them.
Focus on the Detail of the Project
Clearly define individual tasks and ensure that each member of the team is committed to completing their tasks. These tasks can be set during the planning of the project During this meeting the project manager can ask for a commitment from each individual that makes up the project team. Without this commitment, resistance and lack of compliance can be prevalent. This doesn’t mean that the project manager has to micromanage.
If you delegate accountability for a task to one person, make sure to communicate this to the rest of the team so that the individual takes ownership of the task. Otherwise, confusion may occur within your team, with employees thinking someone else is doing the task when no-one is. This can result in a delay in the project.
Ownership and Responsibility
With ownership of tasks, employees will take responsibility for them. If they come across a problem (as part of a wider team) they will look to problem solve it, so that their task is completed and doesn’t hinder the rest of the team or delay the project. Trust levels and close relationships increase between the team with ownership and responsibility.
Open Door Policy
Although a bit of a cliché, truly adopt an open-door policy where employees can express their views about what they are accountable for. They may be a little out of their depth or lack the confidence to complete the task. They may require further training, coaching of mentoring. By approaching you, they have taken responsibility and ownership of the task and they don’t want to let you or the team down.
Hold People Responsible
No-one likes confrontation, but if an employee isn’t taking accountability seriously and their work is letting the team down, this situation has to be addressed. You need to show the rest of the team that you are serious about accountability. Project managers don’t need to be tyrants, just find out why the individual isn’t or doesn’t want to be accountable for their work. It could be for a variety of reasons:
- A new employee may need further training.
- An experienced employee may have too much on their plate.
- They have some personal issues that they need to resolve.
- A poor performing employee may be lazy and you would need to resolve this by setting tangible work targets. Written goals and instructions can help you both stay accountable with poor performing employees. As a project manager, you may have to rely on your leadership skills to review what is needed to improve performance. In this situation, by using written instruction the employee won’t be able to make the excuse of “I didn’t understand” or “I didn’t know.”
- A lack of accountability sends a message to the rest of your team that lower standards are OK. The team may begin to resent the low-performing employee and you as project manager because they have to shoulder more work to make up for their teammate’s deficiencies.
By creating accountability within your team, employees will be motivated and look to problem solve, own up to their mistakes and learn from them. Teams will form closer relationships and trust will increase.
With accountability for their work and ownership of their tasks, your employees will want to achieve their work. Otherwise, they will feel that they are letting the team down, the project down and ultimately the organization down. Full accountability by the whole project team leads to success because everyone has the desire to achieve for the good of the organization.