· 4 mins · Management Skills

8 ways to improve accountability in your team

Managing a team is hard. Building a high performance team? That’s even harder. But one key skill that high performance…

Avatar of Shannon Maloney Shannon Maloney

Managing a team is hard. Building a high performance team? That’s even harder. But one key skill that high performance teams all have in common is that they hold themselves accountable, both as individuals and as a team.

That’s why all great managers should know how to build a culture of accountability in the workplace.

Here are eight team accountability exercises to start right now:

1. Set clear expectations, and document them

The first step in team accountability is making sure your team knows exactly what’s expected of them individually and collectively. A great way to do this is to use a RACI matrix for big projects. If anyone were to approach a member of your team outside of the department, they should be able to clearly say:

  • What their team is trying to achieve (and how this ties to the overall company objectives)
  • What their responsibilities are in the team
  • What their individual KPIs are
  • Who is accountable for what

If your team doesn’t know their expectations, be sure to change that. Use team management software to document and manage projects to keep everyone in the loop. You should also use time in your one-on-ones to go over individual and team goals again and again until they become second nature to your employees.

2. Make everyone responsible for team meeting agendas

Nothing is worse than being the only one talking in a meeting that you set up. If that sounds like how your team meetings run, take a step back and give your whole team power to control the agenda. This means sharing it beforehand and making everyone responsible for taking meeting notes. When others contribute to the agenda and are prepared for the meeting, you’ll be able to listen and coach more rather than maintaining the conversation.

3. Assign tasks to individuals

It sounds counterintuitive to talk about increasing team accountability, and then encourage assigning tasks to individuals…right? Not really. You might think that assigning action items and tasks to teams will help them work more collaboratively, but the reality is that without a single person assigned to complete a piece of work or next step, it will fall through the cracks. With one person assigned, the rest of the team knows who to hold accountable, which is especially important if your team is highly dependent on each other to complete work before they can start their own.

4. Follow-up

In emails, in meetings, in chats…always, always follow-up. As a manager, aside from setting the expectations for your teams, this is the second most important thing you can do to impact team accountability. Expectations and goals that are set without follow-up or reiteration will fall through.

5. Adopt an “embrace mistakes” mantra

Encourage your team to own their mistakes and failures, learn from them and move on. Eliminate all games, “he said she said” attitudes or shirking responsibilities within the team. If something didn’t get done, ask who was responsible (another reason why assigning tasks to individuals is hugely important), why didn’t it happen and what can we do differently next time around to make sure it does get done.

6. …but make sure there are consequences

If something doesn’t get done, and nothing happens, was it really ever that important to do in the first place? Establish a team dynamic where everyone is clear on what happens when goals and targets are not meant. It’s not a scare tactic, but it should be something the team is aware of. Think of it like this: if someone asks a member of your team “What happens if you don’t do X?” then the answer shouldn’t be “nothing.”

7. Reward wins

Recognition in the workplace is still one of the biggest employee engagement factors. Build team accountability by rewarding and recognizing wins within the team and as a team. Studies consistently show that recognition is key to employee drive, motivation and retention.

8. Practice what you preach

“Lead by example”…“Practice what you preach”…there are a dozen cliché quotes with the same sentiment, but what it boils down to is this: be the model for what you want your teams to do. This means owning up to your own mistakes, taking responsibility for your actions and being clear with your team on your accountabilities.

Creating a culture of accountability takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it in the long run. Try implementing these eight team accountability exercises into your day-to-day, and watch performance skyrocket 🚀.

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What to do next

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