Applying Accountability in your Team Part Two: Actions that Will Drive Accountability

Applying Accountability in your Team Part Two: Actions that Will Drive Accountability Hero Image

Last time, we introduced accountability in the context of three pillars: deliverables, behaviours and progression. If you missed that post, you can catch up on it here.

Types of Feedback Framework
Types of Feedback Framework

Today, we’re going to go a step further and look at each pillar again, but this time we’ll learn about weaving accountability into each pillar.

It’s worth saying that at first, you’ll struggle to do this because it takes proactive thought and effort to take the actions below. Your natural ways of working and processes may not include these actions, meaning that they may not come naturally. 

But over time, you’ll get to a point where you don’t need to think about these actions or principles as much. They will become part of your workflow and mindset without needing to consciously plan for it. 

To begin with, you do need to put more effort into them and work out how to integrate them day-to-day when you work with your team.


Here are a bunch of practical ways that you can drive accountability within your team when it comes to their day-to-day work.

Guide, don’t dictate

If you dictate to someone exactly how a task should be delivered, then you’re taking away pretty much all of the accountability. You need to leave a degree of flexibility and autonomy in order for someone to feel accountable for delivering a task. 

Specify the outcome, not the steps to get there

In a similar vein to the previous point, try to focus on what the outcome of a piece of work should be and what success looks like. Avoid being too prescriptive by telling them each and every step that they should take in order to get to the successful outcome. Again, just giving someone a step by step process or a checklist to follow takes away the feeling of accountability for that task.

Connect the work to a human being (client, customer, stakeholder etc)

It’s important for someone to feel like the work that they are doing is important and matters. Without this, it’s easy to shrug off the feeling of accountability because they’ll feel like it doesn’t matter. To help overcome this, you should connect the work to the person who will be influenced by it. If they’re producing a piece of copy for your website, talk about the customers who will read it and how it will help them. If you work at an agency and your team member is designing some advertising creative, talk about the person who will review the work and approve it. 

Don’t fix mistakes for them

I struggled with this one a lot earlier in my career. I still struggle with it to some extent. It’s important that when you review a piece of work, that you don’t fix mistakes for someone. Of course, you should highlight them and if appropriate, work alongside them to help them fix any mistakes or issues. But don’t take the work away from them completely and fix everything. 

Put their name on the deliverable and get them to send it

This is a very strong tactic for making someone feel accountable for the work that they are doing – put their name to it. Get them to email it or present it to the stakeholders who it is for.

Set deadlines and stick to them

Finally, there are few better ways to encourage the feeling of accountability than holding someone to a deadline that they agreed to. Just as importantly, you should set the example here and stick to your own committed deadlines. 


Next, let’s look at the actions that you can take to drive accountability into the day-to-day behaviours from your team.

Give them ownership of something in meetings

Team meetings are a great way for someone to display professionalism and the behaviours that you’ll probably be looking for. You can encourage and develop this by proactively getting them involved in meetings by owning a certain section of the agenda or perhaps presenting a few slides from a presentation.

Get them to teach others about stuff they’ve discovered

This one works particularly well for those who are early in their career. At this point, they’ll probably be spending a bunch of their time learning about their role and practising new skills. Get them to pass on what they’ve learned to other members of the team which can help develop the right behaviours around collaboration and teamwork.

YOU and the rest of the team set the bar for them

Don’t forget that you’re always on stage as a leader. This means that whatever behaviours you display are the ones that set the standard for everyone else. If you’re late to every meeting, you’re telling them that they can be late too. If you miss deadlines and don’t manage expectations around this, you’re telling them that they can do the same. Be aware of this and set the standard at the highest level possible by holding yourself to these standards too.

Call out examples of people taking ownership

One type of behaviour that you definitely want to watch out for is taking ownership of problems or challenges, as well as solutions. If someone in your team spots a problem and puts their hand up to fix it without being asked, you should praise this behaviour so that others are aware and are encouraged to do the same.

If someone puts their hand up to admit fault, praise that behaviour

Start meetings with previous actions

A great method for encouraging accountability via behaviours is to start all meetings by reviewing the actions that were agreed at the previous meeting of the same type. For example, if you have a weekly team meeting to discuss active projects, start by talking about the actions from the week before. 


Finally, let’s look at how you can approach developing a team member and giving them progression, whilst encouraging them to be accountable for it themselves.

Keep their “scorecard” up to date

However you keep track of how someone is performing against their personal objectives, ensure that you keep it up to date as much as possible. This not only keeps them accountable for hitting their objectives, but it displays your own accountability for their progression too.

Share learnings and talk about failures

As someone progresses and becomes more and more senior, they are going to hit challenges and problems that they need to overcome and fix. When this happens, not brushing over things quickly and taking some time to reflect on learnings and talking about things going wrong can encourage accountability. This is because ultimately, they will be accountable for their wins and losses and taking time to reflect on what they could have done better, can encourage that feeling of accountability.

Assign actions after every review

As we’ve discussed previously, you can’t control someone’s progression 100%. Ultimately, they need to take the majority of actions if they are going to move forward – you can’t do this for them. To encourage accountability from their side and the right mindset, you can assign clear actions after every performance review and ensure that the majority of these actions sit with them. You can (and should) take some actions, but not the majority of them.

That’s it for our two part series on accountability. Again, you can check out part one here if you missed it.

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