In the workplace, we are often told that people need to be accountable for the organization to succeed. But what does this mean? Is accountability simply a matter of being held responsible for failure or undesirable consequences? If a good leader can inspire their team to be accountable, what happens when there’s a change of leadership?
Rather than seeing accountability as something negative or to be enforced by authority, it should be viewed as something intrinsic. As a leader, you can promote this quality and lead your team to lasting success by making the work matter to each individual. Here’s how you can accomplish that.
Much has been written about the value of good communications ineffective leadership, and with reason-many people (not just leaders!) are guilty of not listening sufficiently to others. Before you can motivate someone, you need to know them well, and one of the best ways to do that is through listening with intent. Active listening is a skill you can develop, which will allow you to improve your communications, properly hear out the concerns of each individual (as well as their unstated wants and needs), and make everyone feel like they have a voice and that their thoughts and ideas matter.
Build a constructive culture
Team sports provide a useful metaphor for how organizations work in real life; we get to sit down in front of the TV and watch individuals interact and attempt to work together to achieve results under pressure. Some teams consistently outperform, while others are perennial underachievers. Team culture has a lot to do with that. People start to demonstrate self-motivation when they balance a focus on achieving results with the effort required to sustain harmonious relationships with their colleagues.
Start by building towards a constructive culture within your team. With this approach, people will keep their eyes on performance without creating a cut-throat environment. They will want to have positive relationships with each other but won’t be afraid to give each other feedback on how to improve. Thus, the right culture will provide the criticism necessary for growth, tempered with the support to make the work satisfying.
Give them a personal stake
Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb suggests that people do their best when they have “skin in the game.” If you get a rhinoplasty from a surgeon who doesn’t handle their own mistakes for free or at a discount, then odds are you’d end up getting a corrective nose job from someone else. Results have to matter to people; otherwise, they won’t give their all if left to themselves-your constant intervention will be required, and that can wear thin.
Use the information you gained from listening to your team members. You know what they care about; now, find ways to align the work with their passions. Doctors interact directly with patients; they can easily be personally invested in the outcomes, but what of those who don’t operate on the frontlines? Community engagement activities, for instance, allow your team to be more closely invested in their work by interacting with the people they serve.
Keep in mind that making work matter to each individual will always require a customized approach. So, continue to listen and pay attention, nurture your team culture in the right direction, and always find ways to get people more invested in the work they do.