In my work as a business advisor with hundreds of companies over the past several years, I’ve discovered a simple fact about dysfunctional teams: team members lack accountability.
Now, you can and should create a sense of accountability among your employees. The main ways to do this are:
- Inspect their work
- Ask them questions about how they did their work
- Build it into their performance review
But often the best sense of accountability comes from peers and co-workers. This works to your advantage as the biz owner because there’s a lot more of them and only one of you.
But peers and co-workers are usually reluctant to give one another feedback. Sometimes it’s because they fear that confrontation will lead to hurt feelings. Sometimes it’s simply a lack of commitment (see my last blog post for more on how you can fix this problem). Or maybe it’s because team members lack the communication skills necessary to hold each other accountable…how do you tell someone they’ve missed a deadline or made an error?
Either way, lack of accountability can have a profoundly negative impact on the overall success of a company.
As Patrick Lencioni put it: “Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”
Let’s be real here—as a business owner or senior manager, you shouldn’t, and probably can’t, always be the one who’s holding others accountable for their behavior. Peer-to-peer pressure is more effective, less threatening, and more likely to result in positive results.
So how do you get team members to hold each other accountable?
1st, establish an atmosphere of trust and caring that encourages constructive feedback (see my last blog post). This means helping team members know that it’s okay to take risks and make mistakes. Innovative solutions are the result of creative thinking, and creativity is unleashed when people feel safe.
2nd, promote a sense of responsibility among team members for holding others accountable. Give staff as much ownership over their projects and objectives as possible. Work with them to set measures and metrics for success that they buy into.
Finally, encourage them to go directly to one another with issues, instead of to you, and train them on the importance of providing constructive feedback. Teach them how to be positive and encouraging in their comments, while still being direct and factual in their feedback. Model for them ways of receiving constructive feedback with grace.
Encouraging accountability will go a long way toward building a high-performing team. Your employees, and your bottom line, will thank you.