In business school, a commonly spoken mantra is that team leaders can delegate virtually every aspect of their work — except accountability. When Leaders practice this by also holding themselves accountable, team members pay attention. It shows that no one is above the simple principle of individual responsibility for their work. Here are a few tips to help you build an effective and efficient culture by encouraging your team to celebrate a greater sense of “ownership”.
Entrepreneur.com points out that before a company can hold team members responsible for contributing to goals, it must first be clear about what those goals are. Goals should include not just corporate or even department-level objectives, but the expectations of that specific team member. The company may need to make $2,000,000 worth of sales this month, but how much of that dollar value will be assigned to each team and subsequently each person? Entrepreneur.com believes the best goals meet the following criteria:
• Achievable with effort
• Measurable and specific
• Constrained by resources and time
According to Forbes, for a culture of accountability to thrive, leaders must first eliminate the culture of punishment. If team members believe they will be punished harshly even for small steps out of line, they are less likely to share or act on brilliant ideas. No one will want to try anything new for fear of rocking the boat and being expelled from it. Note that there is no innovation without some level of risk.
Even so, inadequacies do need to be addressed. Remember to tie these missed objectives back into the goals and not into shortcomings of the actual person. Entrepreneur.com recommends trying to understand why the team member is falling short rather than berating them for doing so. By helping to discover the cause, you can then help to craft the solution.
While leaders should never attempt to delegate accountability, they should delegate authority. Doing so empowers team members by giving them the freedom to think and act on their own without a lengthy bureaucratic process. This benefits customers too by shortening the length of time they wait to be served.
Imagine the difference in satisfaction between these two customers:
• Customer A shares a unique problem with Customer Rep Z who comes up with an agreeable solution and implements it within 24 hours or less.
• Customer B shares the same problem with Customer Rep Y, but gets transferred across multiple departments and then up the hierarchy to find one person who is authorized to resolve the issue.
Companies often strive to create highly competitive environments that then pit team members against each other on an individual level. Team members may compete for individual monthly bonuses, promotions or the opportunity to work on coveted projects. Inc, however, recommends using collaboration rather than competition to encourage a sense of personal responsibility.
In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, the best teams are those that hold themselves accountable. How does this work? Research cited by HBR showed that top-performing teams are those where teammates confront each other immediately but respectfully to address problems that may arise. Put simply, when it is in the best interest of the team, anyone should be able to constructively hold another person responsible for their commitment. This is called universal accountability.
Team members make up the building blocks of an organization, and therefore, its culture. This makes workers the easy starting point when trying to change organizational culture. Some leaders immediately turn to hire more accountable people to resolve the issue, but this can create friction. The new team members acting on universal accountability in a workplace where this did not previously exist could be seen as confrontational, causing others to become hostile to them.
Because of this, training existing team members is also important. This may not necessarily make the existing workforce accepting of employees who come “ready-made” with this value ingrained. Still, it does make it clear that accountability is an organizational value that is important. This can make all the difference in how individuals react to that first incident when another team member asks them directly about a missed commitment that impacts the team.
Accountability is the most critical part of any organization, especially when it comes to contact centers. Etech team members and leaders spend a great deal of time not just representing clients but keeping your most prized assets happy by ensuring commitments are met, i.e., your customers. By embracing a culture of individual and shared accountability, we maintain honesty and integrity as key values in our everyday work lives. For more information about our contact centers, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog was earlier published on LinkedIn.