Most leaders want people to take accountability for their work. I’ve worked in many companies where people cried out in exasperation … “There’s just no accountability here!”
Where accountability exists, it can be a powerful tool for motivating people and improving productivity. This is because when people take accountability, they own the work they are doing. They take pride in the quality of the end product and they’ll work harder to get it done.
Leaders Can’t Just Tell People to Take Accountability
Unfortunately, you can’t just tell a team member that they are accountable for something. Just saying it, does not make it so.
Because for people to take accountability, there needs to be the care factor. If somebody doesn’t really care about the work, they won’t own it, work harder to complete it, or take pride in doing it.
Sure, you can say to somebody that they are accountable, but unless the right conditions are in place, don’t expect anything to change.
Let’s look at how we can start to encourage people to take accountability, rather than force it upon them.
Ways to Encourage Team Members to Take Accountability
1. Make Fairness a Priority
Sometimes, you’re blessed with a really enthusiastic team member. One who goes over and above, consistently. They are worth their weight in gold.
But what happens when you have others in the team who don’t pull their weight and let your high performers do all the work?
After a while, your enthusiastic team member will realise they are drowning in work, compared to other people.
And then, they’ll start to reduce their effort. Why should they keep working so hard, when others get away with doing very little?
Leaders need to make sure they try to balance workloads in the team as much as possible. If people who aren’t working hard won’t offer to help, direct them to take on more work. Don’t wait for them to offer – sometimes, they just won’t.
If you don’t make fairness a priority in your team, your best people will refuse to take accountability. Why would they bother, when the people around them refuse to?
2. Let Team Members Fail
This can be a tricky situation.
Imagine, you’ve asked Cassie to take accountability of some important work. She makes a mistake and a few things start to go wrong.
You have a few options:
- You step in, take charge, and fix it; or
- You provide guidance for Cassie, but you let her work through the problems and fix them.
I’ve seen many leaders take the first option.
Unfortunately, what this does is remove accountability from Cassie. She was accountable, but as soon as there was trouble, someone fixed it for her. Cassie is now getting the message that she wasn’t ever really accountable.
Leaders struggle to take the second option, because they see their team’s failure as a direct reflection of themselves. As a result, they rush in to stop anything going wrong. But in the end, accountability is diluted and the team stops learning lessons from their failures.
Resist the temptation to rush in and solve everything, unless you really need to.
3. Give Team Members a Reason to Care
Earlier, I mentioned care factor. For team members to take accountability, they need to care.
They need to care about the quality of the work and that it is done on time. To take pride in the work, because their name is against it. Without this, they will struggle to take accountability.
So, how do you do this? Once again, you have a few options:
- Give people accountability for tasks that improve their career prospects. If Cassie wants to eventually move into graphic design, make her accountable for the design of your team newsletter. Help people get to where they want to go, and they’ll help you.
- Give people accountability for tasks they value, and are interested in. People take greater pride in the work that matters the most to them.
- Provide rewards or benefits for taking on greater accountability. If there is literally no good reason for someone to step up and take accountability, why would they bother? You need to give them a reason why.
Some leaders think that team members should do more work, just for the good of the team. Or because they should be thankful to just have a job.
But these factors are fleeting and team members won’t care about this for long. Everybody needs a good reason why they should care. Make sure your team members know “What’s in it for me?”
Accountability is a great tool. But you need to set up circumstances for people to want to take it.
What have you done to encourage people to take accountability in your team? Leave a comment below!
Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help on this topic, you can send me a private message through my contact page.