Have you ever been disappointed or even frustrated by an employee’s or colleague’s actions, or lack thereof? Maybe you have an employee who frequently fails to submit his weekly reports. Or perhaps you work with a colleague who spends meeting time with her face buried in her phone.
On the flip side, it’s equally as annoying to be pestered and micromanaged by a leader who doesn’t know a more effective way to ensure that people follow through on their commitments.
The truth is, helping people be accountable is hard. Most leaders I speak to admit they struggle with this task. In fact, in a 2019 Benchmarking Report by The Predictive Index, CEOs revealed that their biggest weakness was “holding people accountable.”
Why Accountability Matters
But when we don’t help others be accountable, we experience real consequences that affect the bottom line.
For example, in their multi-year, Workplace Accountability Study of more than 40,000 employees, Partners in Leadership discovered that organizations without a culture of accountability have:
When you can’t count on being able to implement projects well, or you don’t know if your employees will hang around long enough to get the work done, you’ve got a serious problem.
The Value of Taking Action
The good news is you can build a culture of accountability, and it is worth the effort!
After decades of writing and testing hundreds of questions to build their Q12 Employee Engagement Survey – which includes the accountability question of “Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?” – Gallup discovered that organizations whose employees respond positively to these questions have lower turnover, higher profits, and increased customer loyalty.
In my own coaching and workplace strategy practice, I’ve found that teams who focus on improving team cohesion and accountability also improve across other team dimensions. This chart shows how one team I coached saw significant improvements across the board, moving them to a “high” performance level and increasing their confidence in leadership.
How to Build Employee and Colleague Accountability
There are several ways to build accountability. For this post, I will focus on the one attribute any leader can personally control and implement today to build a culture of accountability:
For best results, I recommend that you start with building employee (direct report) accountability, then add colleague accountability as you gain confidence and competence.
1. Build Employee Accountability
If your team sees you helping one of their colleagues to be accountable, they’ll feel safe doing the same. But how can you do this in a way that empowers everyone, even the person who may have failed to be accountable? Here are five steps that have worked for my clients:
2. Build Colleague Accountability
As difficult as it is to help direct reports with accountability, it’s even more difficult with colleagues. Because you don’t have authority over colleagues, there’s a risk that they’ll feel you’re blaming or trying to manage them. So, I suggest a different approach than you’d take with a direct report. Here’s what’s worked for my clients:
Rising to the Occasion
At the end of the paper, they concluded their feedback in one of two ways:
All students were then given an opportunity to revise their papers for a new grade.
Of those who received “wise feedback,” 71% revised their papers.
Of those who receive “neutral feedback,” just 17% revised their papers.
The moral of the story? When we set high expectations, express our faith in others’ ability to achieve them, and offer regular feedback and support, they will almost always rise to the occasion.
My greatest joy is helping people make bold transitions in their professional and personal lives!