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19th Jul 2022
As a leader, that’s frustrating. But as you know, the buck always stops with you, and creating a culture of accountability in the workplace won’t happen without you.
In this article, we’ll discuss what a culture of accountability looks like at work, why it’s so critical to success, and ideas on how you can embed accountability into your workplace culture.
Definition of accountability in the workplace: Being accountable at work means taking responsibility for actions, decisions, tasks, and deadlines, and owning the results, whether good or bad.
Accountability is central to high-performing teams, but it’s a complex phenomenon. When there’s a culture of accountability in a workplace:
Workplace accountability boosts productivity, creativity, trust, morale, and overall team performance.
A lack of accountability at work can breed poor performance through:
Creating a culture of accountability in the workplace can have many upsides:
As a leader in your workplace, culture building is a responsibility that falls directly in your lap. Changing workplace culture takes time and effort, but if you’re looking to cultivate accountability, here are nine ideas to get you started:
To encourage a culture of accountability, you’ll need to hold yourself accountable first. As a leader, you very much set the tone for performance and culture. If you’re always late for meetings, miss deadlines and avoid responsibility for your mistakes, others will follow your lead. If these aren’t behaviours you want in your team, you’ll need to change your own behaviour first by demonstrating exemplary leadership qualities:
To enable employee success, you need to explain the rules of the game. Having clearly defined standards lets employees know what’s expected of them. You can do this by defining and communicating the:
“It is critical to share an understanding and commitment to agreed roles and responsibilities, whether this is in a project environment or part of business as usual activities. When hierarchy is set aside and the focus is shifted to defining the most appropriate person accountable for specific work, efficiencies are enabled which also helps to support a culture of empowerment and shared ownership of final outcomes.”
Sophia Herdina, Project Manager, People & Culture for Sydney Catholic Schools
To perform to their fullest potential, people need to understand what’s expected of them and the big picture goal they’re working towards. Clear goals inspire people to work towards achieving them and make them want to stick around. Here are two of the more popular goal-setting methods you could use:
Accountability frameworks like RACI ensure that everyone involved in a project understands their role. People are designated as Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed and it clarifies exactly who is doing what, ultimately leading to better performance.
Once your goals are set and the team understands their role, you’ll need to monitor progress carefully. Embedding regular team meetings, daily stand-ups or one-on-ones creates strong habits around accountability. Using project management technology like Asana, Monday, or Click-up keeps track of commitments and can be useful for monitoring progress and continually reinforcing your culture of accountability.
Giving and getting honest feedback can be a real challenge, but it’s an area you can work on. Many leadership courses include excellent training to boost feedback skills. Here are some feedback tips to consider:
As a leader in your organisation, you need to demonstrate desired behaviours. Part of a culture of accountability is owning your mistakes and learning from them. When people see it’s okay to make mistakes, they’re more inclined to push boundaries and innovate. If mistakes happen, it’s good practice to:
When recruiting, prioritise cultural fit over skills. You can teach skills more easily than shifting deeply held values. Look out for the following traits:
There are many ways people uphold a culture of accountability in their workplaces. Here are a few examples:
Project Spotlight: Directors at Secom Technical Services successfully built a culture of accountability through implementing an intensive employee engagement program.
Accountability is important in every job, but it’s particularly central to the project profession. Holding yourself and your team accountable for the project outcome is core to the role.
And even more so in certain industries, where the stakes are exceptionally high. Projects in sectors like defence, government, construction, and health can have life or death impacts, and a culture of accountability can help prevent mistakes that could have dire consequences.
Cultivating a culture of accountability in the workplace improves morale and performance and will help your team thrive. The Australian Institute of Project Management offers a range of professional development workshops. Take a look at the course outlines to find out how you can build skills and knowledge to help you shape a high-performance culture and confidently lead your organisation to success.
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8 tips for leaders wanting to create a culture of accountability in the workplace and why it’s so critical for high-performing teams.