How can I improve my accountability skills?
Sometimes managers will let employees avoid accountability at work because they dislike confrontation. But a lack of individual accountability is bad all around.
It’s bad for the employees who likely know they aren’t performing well. For instance, a salesperson will probably know he is the only one who didn’t meet his sales goal. Without the encouragement and push to improve, he may feel ignored, discouraged and devalued, which may lead him to quit.
A lack of accountability at work sends a message to the rest of your staff that lower standards are OK. The team may begin to resent the low-performing employee and his or her manager because they have to shoulder more work to make up for their teammate’s deficiencies.
And if you don’t address the problem employee, the team may perceive it as favoritism or weakness, which can be demotivating for everyone.
But you can turn this trend around. Here’s how you can make sure everyone on your team is pulling their weight equally.
Have the difficult conversation
While holding employees accountable may sound confrontational, it doesn’t have to be. Just remember to focus on the performance, not the person. Assume that most people genuinely want to do a good job and aren’t being difficult on purpose.
Employees may not understand how their behavior affects other team members. Other common reasons for inadequate performance:
- The manager didn’t give clear instructions
- Extra training is needed
- There’s a technical issue
- A personal issue is seeping into work
- Conflicting priorities
Address the poor performance as soon as possible
Deal with the individual one-on-one and as quickly as possible. After all, nothing is likely to change unless you confront the problem. You also don’t want your frustration to build to the breaking point or for an employee’s non-performance to become a big issue. You need to figure out the why behind the poor performance. This is where you’ll need to find a way to make your leadership style match the situation.
Consider your employees’ feelings
Start with the assumption that people sometimes don’t understand the impact of their behavior. It’s your job as supervisor to be kind, find the root cause of the problem and establish a mutual way forward. Throughout your conversation, concentrate on maintaining the employee’s self-esteem by showing concern for the individual as well as for the company’s needs.
Set smart goals
When things are busy it may seem like a pain to stop and write down procedures, goals and policies. However, employees need to know what is expected of them in order to perform well and stay motivated.
If you find a consistent lack of accountability at work, it’s likely you need to create some written SMART goals. SMART stands for:
S – Specific
Developing SMART goals are a whole topic in itself, so there’s much more to learn than what is mentioned here. Just know that this tactic leaves little to the imagination and provides clear communication between employee and supervisor.
Follow through and follow up
After every conversation, write down what was said. You don’t have to report every issue to HR, but it helps to send an email to yourself and the employee to outline the problem that was addressed, the solutions you both agreed upon and the expectations for future behavior. This helps clarify the conversation for everyone involved, and gives you a paper trail should additional action be necessary.
Create a Personal Mission Statement
I think that we get so caught up in the mundane details of daily life that we often lose track of why we’re here, what we want and, most importantly, what we value. Manage yourself by finding a way to integrate your values into what you do. Write your own personal mission statement.
My personal mission statement, at the moment, is this: “To live simply and give selflessly, and to work diligently towards financial independence and the opportunities such independence will afford me.”
Your personal mission statement doesn’t have to be profound or poetic – it just needs to convey your core values and define why you do what you do each day. (Hint: If you can’t find a mission statement that fits your current career or life, maybe it is time for a change!)
There are countless benefits to writing down goals of all sizes. Annual, five-, and ten-year goals can help you expand on your mission statement because you know you are working towards a tangible result. But long term goals are useless unless you have a strategy to achieve them. Manage yourself by setting micro-goals.
What is a micro-goal? I like to think of it as a single action that, when accomplished, serves as a building block to a much larger goal.
Provide the necessary resources
Similar to the first point, it is important to know from the beginning that you are setting your employees up for success. suggests asking yourself “If the person does not have what’s necessary, can they acquire what’s missing? If so, what’s the plan? If not, you’ll need to delegate to someone else. Otherwise you’re setting them up for failure.” Additionally, if they can’t acquire what is missing, can you help them acquire it?
If employees do not feel that they are set up for success, they are more likely to place blame on outside sources to explain why they were not successful rather than holding themselves accountable.
To help your team members feel accountable, connect them to the work they’re doing. Different types of connection motivate different types of employees:
- Connect their work to the goals of the broader company so they understand how they’re contributing to organization-wide priorities.
- Connect their work to their personal and professional goals. How will being successful in their current pursuit help them achieve their long-term aspirations?
- Connect them to the problem and to the solution. Challenge your employees to come up with their own solutions — it will help them feel more responsible for the outcome.
- Connect them with their team members. Promote collaboration, and make sure your employees feel seen and heard by others on the team. This will make them feel like others are invested in their success, help them understand how their work affects others, and increase their sense of accountability to the team.
Communication is key
Another of the unique difficulties facing, say, student employees-as opposed to full-time employees-is that sporadic scheduling can make it difficult for them to keep track of when they are actually supposed to be at work.
SubItUp can go a long way in rectifying this issue. Shift reminders notify your employees 45 minutes in advance of their shift; instant updates notify them of scheduling updates; group messaging allows you to promptly get in touch with an individual member of your team, or with a group of members. Give the members of your team a smorgasbord of channels through which to communicate, and you create a layer of social accountability, too.
In a similar vein, make it clear that even for seasonal or temporary employees who’ll leave after a short stint, you’re just an email or phone call away. The prospect of a glowing recommendation can do wonders for accountability. If you choose to offer something of this ilk, be sure that you remain accountable, too; for each employee, keep notes on performance to refer back to in the event you’re called upon to advocate on someone’s behalf.
How to Improve Accountability
- Define Roles & Responsibilities for Team Members: You can’t be accountable for what you don’t know you’re supposed to be accountable for. Therefore, clearly communicate who does what, and get feedback and concurrence from the team. Take questions, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Clarify Reporting Structure: Accountability needs a structure. There must be a system in place to explain who reports to who, who can authorize and approve, so that there’s a clear channel to disseminate and report on people’s work and their accountability with it. Again, field questions from the team to make sure the reporting process is understood by all.
- Provide Specific Deadlines: If tasks are open-ended, then there can be no accountability for missing deadlines that don’t exist. So, be clear as to when a task or deliverable is due, and maybe set up notifications to remind team members when deadlines are looming. As always, get feedback and answer any questions the team has about this process.
- Document Everything: Well, maybe not everything, but documentation is the paper trail that ensures the person who is accountable knows that. Be sure to ask the team if they have any questions about the documentation process.
- Send Alerts, Triggers and Notifications: There are project management software that can automate reminders of looming deadlines, but also when a task is late, and any number of other notifications. You can decide what you want to communicate to your team through this system, which avoids you giving the impression that you’re constantly looking over their shoulders. But before you program these alerts, be sure you discuss it with the team and get their feedback.