Accountability in a workplace typically refers to employees that accept responsibility for their own actions (whether positive or negative) and willingly acknowledge their role across different scenarios. The term accountability has gained increased buzz for the past decade. Companies with a strong sense of personal ownership and responsibility are thriving for clear and evident reasons. CEOs and team leaders/ project managers are hence increasingly looking for ways to instill accountability in the work environment. As I look back at my current tenure in a strategy management consulting firm, where we typically engage in short-term dense projects with a stringent deadline, I believe that there are few key factors that project managers ought to consider in order to build team accountability.
Firstly, having an effective two-way feedback system is essential to build trust and implant a sense of accountability among team members. This system allows project managers to recognize and identify their own mistakes towards their team – In fact, how can project managers hold their team accountable if they are not able to abide by that standard themselves? This system/ behavior avoids having managers point fingers at their team in negative scenarios and encourages joint collaboration for mutual success.
Secondly, project managers that focus on constructive feedback, rather than punitive feedback, are able to eliminate the fear of failure which can be a significant obstacle that prevents employees from taking new responsibilities. In fact, in companies that impose severe consequences based on work outcome, employees will not shift their thinking beyond the legacy requirements or seek to offer new innovative ideas which can typically have a larger degree of failure.
Last but not least, project managers have a crucial task that must be maintained during an assignment. They need to clearly define objectives and continuously follow up on work progress of their team members to ensure work expectations are mutually agreed-upon. Regular follow-ups also allow early identification of potential challenges (rather than late unrecoverable mistakes) which can thus be converted to a learning opportunity that employees would be willing to own up to.