Accountability is a hot topic these days. Companies move from engagement and motivation to accountability. According to a Harvard Business study from 2018 motivation and engagement are seen more as internal elements growing in every person and leveling according to the factors that help create and sustain them in time. Accountability instead is the result we see from people’s internal motivation and engagement in the form of level of task and goals completion as support to company strategic goals and mission.
To ensure a higher level of accountability you need to work on motivation and engagement and look on each employee possible limitations. Everything else is just a push up for results that leads to disengagement and lower results.
Leaders often talk about motivation and engagement, but what they need to focus on is accountability. This element guarantees higher results and boosts internal motivation. But to ensure a high level of accountability what you need to focus as a leader in an individual’s state.
Building accountability with my team I follow several steps to define what can I count on for every team member so that I can account its full potential into work priorities:
Identify individuals speed of reaction
We are all different. Some of us work fast and make some mistakes, while others work slow, but deliver an excellent product. Depending on the task priority some tasks may bring discomfort to slow working people. Imagine you have a perfectionist who you know will deliver excellent result in a complex task within 1 week, but you have only 3 days to deliver the result by finishing the task. There is also a person who makes small mistakes, who are not crucial for success or failure, and this person can deliver the result within the deadline. Who are you going to choose?
The answer here is: Depends on the situation and the flexibility of the task deadlines.
Identify individuals level of expertise
People in your team are uniquely structured so that you can cover if not all then most of the areas in your profession. Each of them has general knowledge and specific knowledge of expertise. It matters a lot who will you chose to finish the job. If it is someone how has the energy but lacks the knowledge and expertise then better move to the next one. After all, to be efficient you need to deliver expert based result within the shortest deadline you can.
Recognize individuals’ motivators
Most people are open when they have to say what tickles them to deliver a good result and what stops them show their full potential. Collect and analyze the information about each member of the team, so that you can build an individual strategy on how to move forward with every one of them without struggling too much. With a good analysis, you can prepare with motivating actions on an individual level and minimize the effect of non-productivity and lack of efficiency at work
“Sign” an accountability contract
In the 21st-century people are driven by stimulus. You want to involve them, then find the stimulus that works for each individual. Most of this stimulus will not cost you much, but the effect they will provide will be tremendous. The most obvious stimulus is money and often when hearing about them leaders step back and try to move that conversation ahead in time. You must dig deeper to try finding what is the real reason behind each stimulus admitted. If you succeed here you will be able to better answer to the individual’s needs. In my experience for more than 85% of the cases, money is the shield covering the real reasons. If you get to the heart of the internal motivation and make a good deal, you can count on a higher level of accountability from the individual. Accountability comes within a winning negotiation. Your team member or another person you expect something from is accountable to the level he or she feels has made a good deal. This feeling is the ground for building higher internal motivation and high level of engagement in delivering results.
Establish standards for success
No matter if you give a task or project to a highly accountable person or someone who is at the end of your list is clear and concise of your expectations. Set limits and results are expectations equal to each of the contributor you account. If you set different standards and communicate different expectations, according to an individual contributor specifics, you will soon lose the accountability of others, participating in task or projects you are responsible for. In other words, measure success with identical parameters for each task or project and try being flexible I the task or project delegation process, after taking in consideration individuals potential.
Be a human and not a business
I have heard it several times in my life and has also experienced it when a manager came to me and said: “I don’t care that you have problems, the deadline is until tomorrow”. And after that, she left the office letting me work until late at night. Knowing that you work with people you need to assume that those people have a life outside work. When you plan deadline for a task don’t make it only convenient according to your deadlines and schedule, but try to plan including participants specifics. Maybe you have a productive team member who is not able to stay late hours, or someone who has planned an outside event with friends and relatives, etc. Productivity and accountability are much higher if people know that you understand and accept their life schedules. That makes them more engaged with the work and ensures higher result delivery. Planning together with people whose accountability you will need to finish the task is a factor that can make look like a winner or loser at the end of the day.