How to promote accountability to drive team performance

Written by: Nora St-Aubin | Illustrated by: Chloé Allard
Published on February 27, 2020 | Reading time: 5m

For managers leading through times of change (like shifting to remote work), maintaining your team’s engagement and performance is top of mind. A sense of individual and collective accountability helps employees stay motivated and continue hitting their targets. As a manager, setting clear expectations and aligning your team on shared goals

is the key to success. When everyone shares a common understanding, it helps each team member know what they’re really accountable for.

With the right approach, holding employees accountable becomes less about highlighting shortcomings or placing blame, and more about instilling a sense of clarity, spurring proactivity, and ultimately driving performance.

What is accountability in the workplace?

Accountable employees manage their workload according to team objectives, proactively seek help when they need it, and take responsibility when they make mistakes.

When teams have a culture of workplace accountability, they prioritize their initiatives to align with business objectives and collaborate effectively. Team members face failures together, without pointing fingers, and actively apply their learnings moving forward.

An accountable workforce is made up of driven employees and high-performing teams. You can see accountability in the workplace when people know what they need to accomplish and are empowered to get there independently. Mistakes and failures are acknowledged and embraced, contributing to a culture of learning and growth.

The key to accountability in the workplace? Building strong foundations…

Accountable employees have a clear understanding of:

  • Their role within their team
  • The responsibilities they hold
  • The expectations they have to meet

Accountable teams have a common understanding of:

  • How their work contributes to company goals
  • The output they’re responsible for
  • The targets they’re striving to achieve

Managers are in the best position to empower employees to get there. Follow the steps outlined in this post to build up your team’s accountability, one day at a time.

How do you build employee accountability?

As a manager, it’s part of your role to hold your employees accountable, but it’s important to be mindful of how you go about it. If you have underperforming employees, you might be tempted to check in more often and make sure they’re on the right track. But when employees don’t feel trusted or empowered to take charge of their own work, it impacts motivation, engagement, and morale. According to our Pulse Survey data,

1 in 5 employees do not feel they have enough freedom to decide how they do their work.

When you clearly establish the job that needs to be accomplished, it gives employees the freedom to figure out how they do it on their own. With a little bit of coaching and a healthy amount of trust, you’ll quickly see a boost in their personal accountability and ownership.

Action plan explosion

A 5-step action plan to build each employee’s accountability

Step one: Meet with employees individually to clearly outline their role and responsibilities. Discuss the behaviours, tasks, skills, and outputs that their role encompasses, so they have a clear picture of how to embody it.

Step two: Once everyone’s roles are clear, look at the upcoming team initiatives with each employee and find opportunities for them to leverage and improve their strengths. Set clear, measurable goals with your employees so there’s a common understanding of what’s expected of them.

Step three: Have regular, structured one-on-ones with employees to monitor their progress, give constructive feedback, and revisit their goals – remind them that goals can shift alongside the team’s context and priorities.

Step four: If you see a team members’ productivity dropping, meet with them to get to the root of the issue. Is their workload too much? Are they misaligned with their peers? Help guide them to solutions by asking meaningful questions.

Step five: Likewise, when an employee drops the ball or makes a mistake, be compassionate and guide them through the learning process, rather than telling them what they did wrong or reprimanding them.

Building employee accountability will help your team become more collectively accountable, but there are things you can do as a manager to foster a culture of accountability, too!

Fostering a culture of accountability on your team

Once you’ve established a baseline of individual accountability with your employees, you can empower your team to become more accountable as a whole. In the same way that employees want the freedom to determine how they do their work, they also want a say in what they work on. According to our Pulse Survey data,

1 in 3 employees do not feel they’re appropriately involved in decisions that affect their work.

Creating alignment is essential – make the objectives and key results that your team is responsible for clear, and empower them to determine the actions that will take them there together. This will help foster that sense of collective purpose, commitment, and responsibility that supercharges team performance.

hands with key of accountability

Tips to foster all-around team accountability

Give visibility

Once you’ve structured clear roles and responsibilities for each team member, make them accessible to the group. Even better, have your team share their individual goals with each other. The more visibility everyone has, the more your team can leverage their individual strengths and collaborate effectively.

Build trust

Trust is absolutely essential for building accountability in the workplace – you can’t hold your team accountable when you’re calling all the shots! Show your team that you trust them to make the right call, and they’ll be more proactive in decision-making, quicker to take action, and more confident to be bold.

Address conflict head-on

Conflict happens on every team, but it can be overcome. Be proactive when you sense tension or hear whispers, and help your employees work through conflict. Part of holding your employees accountable is helping them see the importance of having difficult conversations when things get tough.

Collect feedback

Open up lines of communication so that you can keep a real-time pulse on how your employees feel. The better you understand your team’s engagement and pain points, the better you can spot where clarity or accountability is lacking. This will help you be adaptive in your leadership style to best support your team.

Lead by example

Simple, but effective. Be accountable to your team. Your employees look to you for guidance, and great leaders set a precedent by emulating the behaviours they expect to see in their employees.

Team accountability and high performance go hand-in-hand, and your team relies on your leadership to help them get there. Support your team by setting them up with a clear destination of success, and the tools to forge their own path.