How to Build Accountability Among Your Employees

Having accountable employees is one step away from having a business that runs itself. The benefits of accountability for a CEO are numerous and include:

  • Reduced stress-levels, because you know you can count on your people
  • More time to focus on strategically critical tasks, or even leisure
  • Maximum productivity from a staff working at full-performance levels
  • Confident, engaged employees who, by choice, expand their potential to contribute to the enterprise
  • Trust and respect among team members

As a business owner or CEO, of course, you want your workers to be accountable. But you can’t just ask them to be accountable and expect it to happen. So how do you make it happen? Here are seven tips for creating a culture of accountability in your company:

1) Don’t tell your staff what to do and how to do it.

Managers are problem solvers. Their default style, honed over many years, is to take responsibility for their people and come up with solutions to problems. When coaching your staff to be more accountable, however, you must overcome the knee-jerk tendency to give your staff the answers or telling them what to do and how to do it.

2) Give them clear goals and a lot of latitude around how to achieve them.

Let employees choose how they will accomplish their work goals. If they go off track or fall behind, you can always step in and lead a discussion about what they could do differently to recover.

3) Let them know you expect them to take responsibility.

Early on in your working relationship, tell your employee that you expect him/her to come up with most answers to work-related problems and that you want him/her to take prime responsibility for work performance, career aspirations and job satisfaction. That said, however, you will still be there as a support, coach and advisor.

4) Ease off your direction as soon as they start to get it right.

Situational Leadership® teaches that the amount of direction and support you give an employee around a particular task depends on his/her (1) motivation & self-confidence and (2) competency to perform it. Employees may well require your active involvement with new responsibilities but as soon as they don’t, get out of the way!

5) Resist solving their problems; turn it back on them for the solution.

When an employee brings you a question or problem that he/she should be able to handle…and you solve it…everyone feels good and we can all get on with our work. But you are building dependency, not accountability. Instead, ask for his/her ideas.

6) Ask questions that focus on their thinking process, not the details

When an employee comes to you, ask what they want from you. Are they seeking a solution, advice, ideas, or perhaps just a sympathetic ear? Then turn the question back to them by saying, “What have you tried or considered? What might be a solution or course of action? Where could you get that information?”

7) Recognize and acknowledge when they take responsibility.

It takes courage for employees to act with accountability. After all, they could fail. So, whenever an employee does step up and take responsibility for solving a problem, improving performance or handling an issue, this is precisely the kind of behavior you want encourage and reinforce.

Vistage speaker Ian Cook works with managers who want to increase their effectiveness as a leader and build a stronger team. He addresses the above tips and more in his Vistage program, “Coaching for Motivation and Performance: the Bedrock of Performance.”

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