6 Ways To Encourage Accountability As A Manager

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When it comes to managing — whether in a team or even in a family unit — learning how best to instill accountability in your group is an important part of making tasks flow smoothly and getting everything done.

I often see leaders struggling with encouraging a sense of ownership within their teams. These leaders themselves are often very driven, making it harder for them to understand why others don’t take more ownership.

The question they usually ask is, "How do I get my team to be more engaged?"

There are a few things that leaders need to do to impress a sense of ownership in their people, like sharing visions, inclusiveness, and open communication through feedback and effective delegation.

At the core of ownership, however, comes accountability.

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When most leaders are looking for leadership in their people, they want a strong sense of accountability and responsibility toward their job and the organization.

Accountability is about delivering on a commitment. It's a responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks.

It's taking the initiative with thoughtful, strategic follow-through. It's necessary at all levels of the hierarchy.

Think about it: Senior executives cannot be accountable, unless the people who report to them also follow through on their commitments.

I have seen leaders direct, question, and plead. I have seen them yell or act passive-aggressively in frustration because they don’t understand how to hold people to what is expected from them.

Here are 6 steps you can use to make your work or groups practice better accountability.

1. Set clear expectations.

Setting expectations is at the crux of holding your people accountable. It means being clear about the outcome you're looking for.

Think of how you'll measure success and how people will go about achieving the objective. It does not all have to come from you. There's a difference between setting rules and expectations.

2. Discuss accountability openly.

Is accountability a subject that's avoided in your group or organization? It shouldn't be.

First- and second-level managers often do not even realize that lack of accountability is the core reason people do not finish the tasks delegated.

Leaders must get everyone acquainted and comfortable with the idea of holding each other accountable. It may be a good practice during team meetings to ask how you'll hold each other accountable for this task.

This opens up the conversation and gets everyone comfortable thinking about accountability.

Use storytelling and past examples within the organization to emphasize its value. Over-communicating is beneficial.

3. Use data and technology.

A great way to build a culture of accountability is through data. Put constructs in place to track data, e.g., calendar invites for follow-up on both ends. Use technology to track or support this data-driven approach.

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4. Work together to make a plan.

Make your team part of the process when you delegate or set goals. Get a sense of where everyone is on their motivation scale to take on those responsibilities.

Do they have the skills and resources to accomplish the goals? If they don’t, what is plan B?

If this is not done, you set your team up for failure. Co-create an action plan with them.

Closing it with hearing a summary verbalized by them is an excellent first step to ensuring accountability on the action plan.

5. Address issues head-on.

Often, managers fail to communicate issues or performance problems, either because they're worried about being a nit-picker or don’t have the energy to deal with every problem that crops up.

However, if you don’t communicate with your team when they make mistakes, you prolong their learning process.

Embrace mistakes; nobody likes mistakes. Creating a safe environment where making mistakes does not scare your people improves accountability.

6. Clarify the consequences.

If you've followed all the steps and been apparent in all of the above ways, you can be reasonably confident that you did whatever was necessary to support their performance.

If you still don't see the desired ownership, you have the following three choices:

Repeat: Repeat the steps above if you feel that there is still a lack of clarity in the system.

Reward: If the person succeeded in some part of their job, reward them appropriately through acknowledgment, promotion, or a bonus, whatever applies best.

Release: If you don't see any improvement in their sense of ownership or accountability after you've implemented the above measures, they're probably not a good fit for the role and should be released from it.

Accountability is about trusting your employees to do the right thing.

One reason where people managers hesitate in attempting to do anything about making their employees accountable is that it tends to get confused with micromanagement.

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Micromanagement is based on a lack of trust. Micromanagement does have a bad reputation and is not the desired behavior in most situations.

However, there are some specific exception situations where micromanagement is required. Typically, employees become unmotivated when micromanaged, and it is a waste of time for everyone involved.

However, as a people manager, you cannot never check in with your employees and let them do whatever they want, right? There has to be some control.

So, managers are in a tough spot. How do you balance the two?

How do you walk that thin line and keep your team in check, while not looking like you are hovering over them? How do you not be too lax with your team or go the other extreme and turn into a micromanaging monster?

While I want to say the best thing to do is trust your employees and expect them to perform their best, it's a bit of a risky idea, especially if you have a limited circle of control.

If you avoid micromanaging and then the employee doesn’t meet their results, that's on you.

A good leader will emphasize the importance of accountability and get everyone on the team to understand what they are accountable to.

Managers are responsible for their team, so they must lead by example.

Deep down, employees want to be held accountable for their work. It gives them more profound satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.

A research of more than 5,400 senior-level managers by Harvard Business Review found that one out of every two managers is terrible at accountability.

It's the single biggest thing that managers avoid doing. It arises from wanting to maintain a favorable image, be popular, not rub people the wrong way, and avoid having difficult conversations.

It may come from feedback becoming a norm, so worrying about being rated by your employee.

These are the building blocks for a culture of accountability.

The magic is in the way they work together as a system.

If you miss any one of them, accountability will fall through that gap; however, there are steps you can take on your end to try and correct this issue, especially if it is more common than not in your team or organization.

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Bhavna Dalal is a master certified executive coach MCC ICF, speaker, and author of Checkmate Office Politics who helps people develop their leadership skills such as executive presence, strategic thinking, influencing, and networking. To learn more about her work, visit her website or follow her on LinkedIn.

This article was originally published at Fortune India. Reprinted with permission from the author.