In project team collaboration, creating a culture of accountability is no longer a nice to have, it’s an absolute necessity. Accountability affects all areas of your team, from trust-building and collaboration to ensuring every task gets done without the project manager needing to micromanage.
This probably comes as no surprise. We all know that a unified team that handles responsibility well is a pleasure to work in. But achieving that state of nirvana is no easy feat. However, this article is going to go a long way to helping you achieve accountability enlightenment, with seven strategies that will develop a mature team of responsible individuals.
Creating a culture of accountability starts with clear and consistent communication. Teams that communicate well frequently outperform teams with higher individual performances but that have communication issues. Smooth communication allows your team to better tackle challenges, avoid misunderstandings, and create a feeling of trust.
Here are two pillars of clear communication:
It would be great if you could use psychic powers to transfer your ideas directly into your team’s brains, but the last time we checked, the technology didn’t exist yet. The next best thing is to get a project management tool that lays the groundwork for clear instructions.
The best project management software offers a structure where you can fill in deadlines, responsible people, extra resources, and instructions. This task-setting strategy offers maximum support to your team as they have everything they need for success. Workers can put any questions they have within the task card so you can clarify concepts and learn lessons for future instructions.
Clear communication isn’t over once a task is launched, of course. Personalized updates motivate your team by demonstrating progress, but also by showing your commitment to each individual.
Progress reports promote a collaborative culture by showing how far you’ve come and how far you still have left to reach those aforementioned company goals. But updates are a two-way street — they’re also an opportunity for you to offer more support to team members, which helps them feel valued and consequently more invested in your project management goals.
It’s a common issue for failures in project team collaboration to stem from misunderstandings or confusion regarding roles and responsibilities. But managers focused on role clarity can inspire accountability by conferring a sense of ownership both of tasks and outcomes.
Part of project planning is to foresee where issues of ownership could occur and implement a policy that keeps roles defined. It’s a simple “if, then” formula. For example, if I am off work sick, then my second-in-command will take over project management duties. If a cold call comes in offering services, then transfer the call to the Business Development Manager.
Another way to define roles on a more granular level requires the help of our trusty project management tool. You can assign a responsible person for each separate task, eliminating confusion about who is responsible for what. This is especially critical in large projects where multiple team members on the same level of seniority may be involved in the same task. With a responsible person assigned, it is clear who calls the shots and who reports back to you with their progress.
There is a direct link between role clarity and team performance. Clear roles and responsibilities allow team members to focus on tasks and reduce in-fighting. But more than that, task responsibility is an opportunity for people to shine, knowing the success of their task is intrinsically linked to their reputation. Not only does this give motivation to the responsible person, but rotating responsibility breeds a collaborative culture where everybody’s individual success relies on the efforts of the team at large.
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When people know what is expected of them, they naturally become more accountable. There is no wiggle room to say, “I didn’t know”, so they can own their mistakes as well as their achievements.
A great place to start is with company and individual goals. Defined goals ensure everyone on the team knows what they're working towards, thus reinforcing their sense of purpose and accountability. For example, if your sales agents know they need to make 15 calls every day and they understand why those calls are important to the organization’s success, they are more likely to commit. These goals not only give direction but also serve as a yardstick for measuring progress and success.
With your goals in place, you need to move on to the monitoring process. Project management tools allow you to get an overview of each task, how it is advancing, and if the deadline is approaching. You can facilitate accountability by giving individuals the option to flag a task they’re stuck on rather than keeping it quiet until it’s too late. Trust-building is an essential element here, so make sure your team knows they will be supported rather than chastised when they look for help. The result is that individuals take ownership of their individual goals, which in turn boosts team goals.
When creating a culture of accountability, it helps to celebrate your business’s milestones and draw links to how individual successes played into the overall success of your team. This way, you get the double bonus of increased accountability and increased motivation.
Regular, standardized feedback allows team members to understand their strengths, identify areas for improvement, and clarify any confusion about their tasks or responsibilities. This loop helps create an environment of learning and growth — a cornerstone for fostering accountability in teams.
Regular feedback is quite self-explanatory. You can make minor adjustments and offer extra guidance to give your team members the support they need to own their strengths and weaknesses.
But standardizing these one-to-one meetings is a more well-rounded, actionable strategy. Such an approach offers a structure for your feedback, reducing the possibility of missing out on elements and unconscious bias.
So how does standardized feedback improve accountability?
One-to-one feedback sessions, whether in person or via video conference for remote teams, goes hand-in-hand with open communication and transparency, a key part of a collaborative culture. By opening up a channel of two-way communication, you create a virtuous cycle where constructive feedback and positive recognition boost morale, which leads to increased self-esteem and greater accountability.
Similarly, the fact that you are taking time to invest in someone’s professional progress shows that they are a valued member of the team, giving them a sense of purpose and confidence. The opposite approach, taking a laissez-faire attitude to feedback, causes people to feel disconnected from the team and unlikely to assume extra responsibility.
Moving away from the personal touch, we’re now turning to structured professional development regimes. Not only does training boost team performance, but it also leads to a culture of accountability through increased responsibility. Yes, you equip people with new skills and knowledge, but in return, you can rely on more support from your team through delegation.
To provide the most relevant sessions, your HR team can build an eLearning system full of actionable training. Create engaging content with videos and audio, and get feedback on how you can improve. Then, once you’re sure you’ve got the right approach, it’s time to train your team.
Now you’ve upgraded your skill set, how do you improve accountability?
Put simply, a better-trained team is more confident. And a more confident team is more committed. Rather than sitting silently, hoping nobody singles out their lack of expertise, teams that use professional development sessions assume more responsibility and are more open about their own performance.
From a manager’s perspective, you can delegate some of your simpler tasks to an assigned team leader, who will take full responsibility for their new role. Eager to improve and boosted by the vote of confidence, these leaders get a feeling of satisfaction in advancing their careers.
In your one-to-one meetings, make sure to encourage further training and development by asking each individual what they would like to learn in the future. This way, you’ll have a constant stream of accountable people who take pride in their work.
As a leader, the way you act sets a precedent for those around you. If you shirk responsibility, it gives the green light for your team to do the same. If you shift the blame to others, don’t expect your workers to put their hands up when they’ve made a mistake.
As with every other part of company culture, a definition of accountability in project team collaboration should be laid out in writing for full transparency. Keep a copy of your company values; your behavioral expectations; and your diversity, equity, and inclusion policy in a well-organized online storage space. Then, go through these expectations as part of every onboarding effort and refer back to them when people need a reminder.
But your values are only as strong as your determination to stick to them. Maintaining a culture of accountability is not a one-and-done project. It is a constant commitment to upholding the behavior you define as accountable. When teams start feeling that commitment slip away at a managerial level, their dedication will inevitably drop too.
Therefore, work on building great habits until accountability becomes second nature, and as Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see”.
One of the more left-field additions to our list of how to create a culture of accountability in project team collaboration is gamification. Typically leveraged by product teams to secure long-term user subscriptions, gamification can also be used in-house as a means of boosting engagement and accountability in your team.
While all the previous tips will achieve more accountability, there are situations where you have to think outside of the box to get your team going. For example, if your sales team is slacking on follow-up calls, and your efforts to demonstrate the bigger picture aren’t getting through, try a gamified alternative.
The latest HR technology focuses heavily on employee engagement, with features such as:
Activity streams where people can congratulate each other on successes
Likes and badges for more informal praise on good work
Points systems with prizes to incentivize extra accountability
The bottom line of gamification is that even if you can’t inspire a culture of accountability from an internal maturity and sense of duty, you can achieve the same result from the innate human desire to be seen in a good light. It’s basic positive reinforcement scaled up to a corporate level.
With these seven strategies, you’ll be well on your way to fostering accountability in your team.
But with the right tools, you can set the stage for a cultural shift and spend more time on that personal touch.
Bitrix24 gives you all of those tools on one user (and budget)-friendly platform.
Comprehensive project management software
A file storage unit stored on the cloud
A full arsenal of communication tools
An entire human resources information system
And much, much more
So if you’re ready to embark on your quest to bring accountability to your team, sign up for Bitrix24 today and equip yourself with the tools that will prepare you for success.
A culture of accountability is an organizational environment where every team member takes responsibility for their actions and outcomes, openly communicates, and strives to meet set expectations.
To create a culture of accountability, be clear about your vision for that culture of accountability and lead by example.
A culture of accountability can enhance project team collaboration by fostering openness, responsibility, and trust. It promotes an environment where team members communicate effectively, take ownership of their tasks, and work together towards common goals.
Strategies to foster accountability within teams include: