12 Ways to Improve Team Accountability [Remote & Onsite]
If you think your team struggles with accountability, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
A recent study revealed that 82% of managers recognize that they have ‘limited to no’ ability to successfully hold others accountable, and 91% of employees consider effective accountability to be one of their company’s top leadership development needs.
The reality is, most teams could use a lesson on this. Before we get into our tips, let’s clarify what we mean by the term ‘team accountability.’
What does team accountability mean?
You’ve probably grown up thinking that accountability means owning up to your mistakes. While this isn’t an incorrect understanding, team accountability has a bit more to it.
Team accountability is about each member of a team following through on their portion of a teamwide commitment, and holding themselves responsible for delivering high-quality results.
Coworkers must understand that they have a responsibility to fulfill to achieve their collective team goals. If one person fails to take ownership of their work, then the entire team will struggle to meet its objectives.
If your team has accountability issues, you might be experiencing missed deadlines, repeated mistakes, fluctuating team performance resulting in unpredictable quality of work, or an overall lack of trust among team members.
Related: How To Manage Time And Never Miss A Deadline
Accountability challenges: Onsite vs. remote
The increased flexibility that has accompanied changes to workplace cultures in the wake of the pandemic has left many teams facing accountability issues.
Three main challenges remote and onsite teams face include the following:
#1 Low levels of trust
There are several causes of low trust – all of which damage team accountability.
Issues like high turnover can prevent coworkers from developing strong relationships, and a lack of personal connection can also prevent employees from feeling like they can rely on one another.
This is prevalent in remote teams in particular, where there are fewer opportunities for socializing, which means people must put in more effort to get to know their team members.
#2 Communication issues
Even teams who spend their days working together in an office face communication issues. But this problem is even more exacerbated for teams who primarily communicate via video calls or messaging platforms like Slack.
Remote or hybrid environments may leave employees with fewer opportunities to communicate updates with their team and work together to overcome challenges. The loss of nonverbal cues in remote workplaces makes it more difficult to practice accountability, especially since there are no body language cues to rely on when discussing shortcomings with a supervisor, for example.
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#3 Unclear responsibilities and priorities
In organizations with a structured hierarchy, employees at the bottom of the pyramid can become easily frustrated with changing company priorities. This ties into issues with communication discussed above, as it’s difficult for an employee to practice personal accountability when they’re not even sure what’s expected of them.
Also read: 12 Free Project Budget Templates
12 ways to improve team accountability
Your accountability problem might be minor, or perhaps it’s more severe. Regardless, there are steps you can take to mitigate the issue.
Here are 12 tips to improve team accountability.
1. Check in with yourself
The first step in improving team accountability is taking the time to check in with yourself and assess your team’s current challenges. Ask yourself questions like:
- How are these issues manifesting in our work or productivity?
- Is this issue specific to one team member?
- How am I potentially contributing to this issue?
It may be difficult to think critically about the last question on this list since it involves evaluating your behavior. As you consider it, keep in mind that self-awareness is an incredibly important quality for leaders to have.
Overall, it’s crucial to collect your thoughts and assess the current situation before speaking with your team. You don’t want your concerns to come off as condescending when you eventually relay them, so make sure you’ve thought through your grievances before airing them.
Related: Product Manager vs. Project Manager: Understanding the Differences
2. Schedule a team meeting
If you don’t have standing check-ins with all of your team members, schedule a meeting to discuss your accountability concerns.
Again, this meeting doesn’t have to be accusatory, rather, start by asking your team members to assess the team’s strengths and weaknesses. This strategy will make your meeting feel more collaborative and will allow your team to share thoughts that you may not have considered.
Acknowledging that there is room for improvement provides a great segway into a discussion about expectations.
3. Set clear expectations
Accountability issues are usually unintentional consequences of a larger problem, such as unclear expectations, responsibilities, and goals.
Before an employee can take responsibility for their shortcomings, they have to know what’s expected of them. With that in mind, take time to address both your short-term and long-term expectations and set milestones they can hold themselves responsible for along the way.
Clearly outlining their responsibilities during this conversation will make it easier for you to hold them accountable if they fail to meet expectations later on.
Related: How to Write a Persuasive Project Proposal
4. Create a sense of purpose
Instilling a sense of purpose in your team is a great way to motivate them to practice accountability.
85% of employees said in a recent survey that they weren’t sure what their organization’s goals were. If you haven’t already, walk your employees through how their work ties into larger company goals. This can serve as a helpful reminder that their work is larger than just themselves and that the firm is relying on them.
5. Improve communication
Some teams function best with daily standup meetings, whereas others thrive with occasional meetings and maximized individual work time.
Whatever the case for your team, establishing a channel of regular communication allows them to share regular updates and receive feedback, both of which are important to build team accountability.
If regular daily meetings are too much, consider implementing structured written updates where team members briefly summarize their progress and send it to the entire team. Transparency is essential, and keeping tabs on what everyone’s working on is a great way to develop it.
Also read: How To Manage Communication In Projects
6. Build habits around task planning and goal setting
As we’ve discussed, some accountability issues are caused by an unclear division of responsibilities. The key is to eliminate uncertainty surrounding what needs to get done by assigning specific tasks and setting clear deadlines.
Implementing a project management software like Rodeo can be extremely beneficial for this. For example, Rodeo’s planning feature allows you to create tasks with assigned deadlines, team members, and priority levels. Creating tasks also allows you to plan your team’s capacity at a glance, as you can see how many tasks each team member has on their plate for that day.
Rodeo also allows project managers to see the number of hours that have been tracked toward a particular project and what percentage of the estimated budget has been spent on time activities and expenses.
These metrics all help with accountability, as you can see your team’s progress, who can take on more tasks, who might need more support and coaching, as well as your project budget’s health without having to micromanage.
If this sounds like something that might be helpful for your team, try Rodeo for free for 14 days – no credit card required.
Also read: The Ultimate Guide to Managing Projects Effectively
7. Help your team foster personal relationships
Strong personal relationships between team members establish trust, which is an important aspect of developing an employee’s sense of responsibility. People are far less likely to miss deadlines when they know that doing so will cause more work for someone they care about.
If your team works in person, schedule team outings like happy hours or other bonding events to help everyone get to know each other better. Celebrating birthdays, asking how their weekend was, and showing care for their personal life will help create a positive work environment.
That said, it’s significantly more difficult to promote bonding between employees in an online work environment. Help your team socialize remotely as much as possible by encouraging employees to take part in informal virtual coffee breaks to get to know each other.
Related: The 30 Most Effective Team Building Activities for Creative Teams
8. Mediate strained relationships between team members
This step goes hand-in-hand with the previous one about building personal relationships, as a conflict between team members damages your team’s capacity for trust and accountability.
This sort of harmful conflict should be resolved promptly. There might be larger reasons behind this distrust that require a supervisor’s attention – perhaps work is being unequally distributed and one person is upset that they’re bearing more responsibility.
43% of workers surveyed by the Center for Management & Organization Effectiveness thought managers should be better at resolving conflicts. Trust is critical in building accountability, and effective leaders step in to mend cracks in the team’s foundation when they arise.
9. Maintain relationships with other high-performing teams in your organization
Each team within an organization has its own unique dynamic and workflow, so it could be beneficial for your team to see how other units operate successfully. For example, maybe they have an effective way of planning tasks that your team can implement.
Success depends on your ability to work well with others, so it’s important to get to know your colleagues even if you don’t interact with them daily.
10. Come to a mutual agreement on the next steps
Once you’ve met with your team about your accountability concerns, discussed the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and established a clear method of planning tasks and goals, ensure you’re all in agreement on what’s next.
Your team accountability won’t dramatically change overnight, but agreeing to the changes you’ve discussed allows you to hold them accountable if they fail to follow through. This way you’re all on the same page regarding how to improve.
11. Regularly track progress
Having a centralized place where you can record what projects an employee is working on and what milestones they’re working toward is a key piece of the accountability puzzle. This way you’re knowledgeable about where they should be up to when you check in with them.
As we’ve already mentioned, project management software can keep track of employee progress, tasks, and projects for you. For instance, Rodeo’s reporting feature can provide you with a financial status overview of ongoing projects and closed projects, detailed time registration data, and finally, a breakdown of employee productivity.
Also read: What is Project Management? A 2023 View
12. Celebrate successes
Team members should never feel like their work is going unnoticed, as a lack of appreciation for accomplishments is not motivating.
Celebrating success is a great way to encourage accountability. Use these celebrations as a way for coworkers to strengthen their relationships by expressing gratitude for each other’s contributions to the team's success.
Building accountability is a complex task – and many managers make the mistake of micromanaging their employees instead of establishing a supportive foundation for accountability to thrive.
Instead, we recommend leaning into relationship building, improving your communication channels, and setting clear expectations and team goals to improve performance.
Best of luck in implementing these 12 tips!