Our son recently obtained his driver’s license. This gives him freedom and responsibility with our car (and his mother’s worry). With this comes accountability; he must keep us informed where he is going and be back at the agreed time. He has agreed and adheres willingly to the accountability as he values the freedom.

Accountability is likewise important in business. We give our team members greater responsibility and provide clear accountability. This way they and we know they are undertaking their increased responsibility well. As obvious as this sounds it is often not done well.

In today’s flatter organisational structures, with fewer management layers, accountability often falls down. It is not possible to micro-manage team members nor does that approach get the best from them. Trusting them with a level of responsibility for achieving agreed outcomes better engages them and they achieve more.

This approach requires we give our team members clarity about the required outcome and timeframes. It is better if they have a section of the work they are responsible for. In addition that they understand the bigger picture and how it relates to the other parts of the business.

Some measures or KPIs also improve accountability. They provide a transparent way for the team the member to know if they are achieving a result. For the team members to be successful we need to invest in training for them and we do not hinder them.

The better way for accountability is for the team to hold each other accountable. “As politically incorrect as it sounds, the most effective and efficient of maintaining a high standard of performance on a team is peer pressure ..there is nothing like the fear of letting down respected teammates that motivate people to improve their performance”. (Patrick Lencioni – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team)

For team accountability to work the team must firstly have clarity as to what needs to be achieved and who needs to deliver what. When this is clear, weekly meetings and short daily meetings reinforce this.

At weekly meetings, team members report on what they achieved last week and what their goal is to achieve this week. This provides accountability for the other team members and the opportunity for peer pressure or support to reach their goals.

We find this is more effective when it is followed up by a 15 min “Daily Huddle”. Staff report on what they achieved the day before and what their plan is for today. They report on their KPIs. Then they raise any roadblocks to completing their work. Finally, any other matters that may be important for the rest of the team to know. This is done standing up and is kept sharp. If people are out of the office, they video in. It provides a very effective structure for accountability and communication.

Some questions to ask:

  • How accountable is your team?
  • How do your team members know what is expected of them?
  • How do your team members hold each other accountable?

Accountability drives performance, results and a strong bottom line.

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