The Secret to Building Accountability With Your Employees

Discover how to increase commitment, accountability, and performance in your organization.

When was the last time you and your team missed a deadline?

Nothing is more frustrating than setting goals and creating a plan only to come up short—the success of your employees and your team hinges upon accountability. As a leader, it is important that you not only hold yourself accountable for hitting your goals but that you hold tension to goals set, and you create a culture of accountability on your team.

What is accountability?

Accountability is about delivering on a commitment. It’s about taking ownership and responsibility. Being accountable within an organization means being responsible for decisions made, actions taken, and assignments completed.

If your team struggles with accountability, you’ve likely experienced missed deadlines, repeated mistakes, and a lack of trust. In addition to missing goals, lack of accountability is also bad for employee morale. And the problem is that often when leaders experience an accountability issue, their response is to tighten their grip and become a micromanager.

Accountability is built on a foundation of trust and support, where employees are motivated to do the right thing and take responsibility when they do not. So, instead of turning to stress and surveillance when you’re not getting the outcomes you want, try these tips to improve accountability with your employees.

Hold Consistent Recurring Meetings With Employees

Accountability is about ownership and initiative. Developing a culture in which all employees are responsible for their actions, performance, and decision making is directly correlated with an increased commitment to their goals leading to higher performance.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to encourage this ownership while holding tension to goals, and one way to do that is through consistent recurring meetings.

These recurring meetings or accountability meetings are a time for leaders to meet individually with employees to review goals and figure out what they are going to focus on and accomplish over the next week. 

Often accountability meetings are held weekly, but depending on the schedules of those involved, they can also be held biweekly or monthly. 

Here is an outline of the overall structure for an accountability meeting.

  1. Prep – both participants should complete prep for the meeting 
  2. Check-in – keep it personal (build on trust)
  3. Review- Review the previous period 
  4. Set Goals – set a goal for the next period
  5. Admin – leverage time for any administrative opportunities
  6. Validate – validate what needs to be done to reach the goal (walk through the goal and what needs to happen) it transfers the ownership

Accountability meetings are not meant to micromanage employees but create an environment where employees feel supported.

To set your employees up for success, there are a few things you can do ahead of time to prepare them and get their buy-in to ensure your accountability meetings run smoothly.

Goal Setting

Goal setting can be utilized as a motivational tool for your team. For an employee to thrive, they must be motivated. You can help create an atmosphere to motivate your employee by bringing them into the goal-setting process.

Breaking Down Goals

To help your team reach short-term achievements that can be tied to longer-term, and bigger-picture company goals, you want to establish and break down goals early on. Big numbers are hard to conceptualize with many moving parts – to make the numbers more manageable; break them down into quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals.

Here is an example. Start by breaking down your company revenue into departments on an annual basis. Then drill into that department to determine what is needed at an individual level to get an annual goal for that employee. From there, you can break the goal down into quarterly, monthly, and then finally, weekly goals. See this example of the breakdown below:

Company Annual Goal: $5,000,000
Your sales team has 12 members. Divide the annual goal by 12.
Individual Goal: $416,666.65
Quarterly Individual Goal: $104,166.67
Monthly Individual Goal: $34,722.22
Weekly Goal (assuming 4.3 weeks/month): $8,074.93

Now $8,000 a week is much more manageable on an individual basis than telling your team just to hit $5,000,000 this year.

With this goal in mind, you can work with your team members weekly to determine if they’re on target or if more work needs to be done. It will also allow you to determine if a goal is missed due to a lack of skill or commitment and train, educate, or adjust accordingly.

Creating A Plan of Action

Many people struggle with taking goals and creating plans to implement them. To help your team tackle the goals you’ve laid out together, establish an action plan and then hold tension to the plan.

Once you have a clear vision of what you need to accomplish, the next step is to set SMART Goals, that is goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. By creating measurable goals with a deadline, you can hold tension to those goals.

Holding a Team Accountable.

Outside of individual meetings with your team, there will be other times you will need to hold key players accountable who you may or may not get to work with individually. 

In a meeting setting, it may be challenging to hold participants accountable. Participation, questioning, and preparedness could easily be overlooked. In addition to emotional awareness, holding your participants accountable involves communication.

Here are three easy steps you can take to hold your participants accountable:

1. Set expectations in advance. When scheduling a meeting with your team, you should outline what you expect from the participants. You may need them to bring questions or help by providing information. You may want them to participate with vigor. You must outline what you expect of them before you can hold them to a standard or expectation.

2. Clarify the consequences. Let the participants know how you plan to hold them accountable. Perhaps you can warn that you will be calling on everyone for answers. You may also leverage their manager if applicable. You may say that you will be sending the meeting minutes to their supervisors where they can see if they participated or not.

3. Follow through. If you said you would do something, then you have to do it. Do not get into the habit of making empty threats. People will respect you and will naturally be accountable to you because of your work ethic.

Most participants want to contribute. Your ability to assert yourself and communicate your expectations, consequences, and determination will make this an easy process with practice.

Whether you’re just starting to grow, or you’ve had a large team for years, it is never too late to start working on your culture. This post provides actionable tips on how small businesses can begin implementing this framework.

If you need more help with your leadership and don’t know where to start, you don’t have to go alone. Schedule a free two-hour session to dig into your business and develop a plan.

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