In order for someone to be accountable, they need to receive the consequences of their actions. The team members need to see a direct link between their behavior and the consequences of those behaviors. Most of the time when we think of consequences, we think of punishment but in reality, consequences can be positive or negative. The leader should use far more positive consequences than negative ones. When you apply positive consequences through praise and other recognition, it tends to build up the goodwill and that will be needed in the future when negatives are required.
Any time the consequences of inaction are detached or delayed, they no longer have an impact on the behavior. Here’s an example with cigarette smoking – one of the reasons people smoke despite knowing all the logical reasons why they should quit, is because the most negative consequence of smoking is deferred until sometime in the future. While there’s an immediate positive consequence of pleasure, imagine if within an hour of inhaling a cigarette smoke you felt a tumor growing your chest and you died a few hours later. Although it sounds morbid, there would be near zero smokers in that situation. Another dramatic example regarding healthy eating – if during your third bite of a fast food hamburger, you felt tightness in your chest and you had a massive coronary, your eating habits would probably change pretty quickly. With a focus back on work, the leader needs to apply consequences fairly immediately in order for team members to be accountable for their behavior and their performance.
Here are three tips for increasing the accountability in your work team.
#1 Clarify your expectations
Be sure to clarify expectations in terms of quantity, quality, attendance, punctuality, teamwork and safety. By being precise there will be less confusion in the minds of your team members.
#2 Provide the resources
Asking people to be accountable and then starving them of the needed resources is both unfair and unreasonable. It will cause your team members to get resentful and that will encourage excuses.
#3 Apply the consequences
Focus mostly on positive reinforcement for a job well done and build up goodwill for the negative consequences you might have to deliver in the future. If you focus too much on negative consequences, you will create defensiveness and avoidance in your team. Avoid interfering with an assignment once you’ve given it to someone. When you meddle with the task assignment, you take away the sense of ownership that the employee has and then they can potentially blame you when things don’t turn out well. In essence, it lets them off the hook and that removes accountability.
When you increase the accountability in your work team, your job of the leader gets to be easier. Your team will generate the desired results more consistently and that makes you look good. To continue your growth as a leader, you are invited to check out our books, videos and training workshops and join our Facebook community at: frontlineleadership.com