Setting Standards for Accountability

Recently, I did a workshop on “Accountability and Goal Setting” with one of my clients and realized that most organizations really have no idea on how to set standards for accountability.

Holding your team accountable to your standards is a key aspect of effective communication in leadership and management. It helps you ensure that your team members are aligned with your goals, expectations, and values, and that they deliver high-quality work on time and within budget. However, accountability is not about micromanaging, blaming, or punishing your team. It is about creating a culture of trust, transparency, and feedback, where everyone knows what is expected of them and how they can improve. In this article, you will learn how to hold your team accountable to your standards in five steps: setting clear and measurable standards, communicating your standards regularly, monitoring and reviewing performance, providing constructive feedback and recognition, and following up.

1. Setting Clear and Measurable Standards

The first step to hold your team accountable to your standards is to define what those standards are and how they will be measured. You need to establish the criteria, indicators, and targets that will guide your team’s work and evaluate their results. The best, and easiest process that I have found to set clear and measurable standards is SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound).

  • Specific
    • State what you want to accomplish and the benefits of achieving this goal.
  • Measurable
    • How will you measure your progress?
    • How will you know if you’ve accomplished this goal?
  • Achievable
    • Is the action possible to achieve?
    • What steps do you need to take to accomplish this goal?
  • Relevant
    • Why is this goal worthwhile?
    • Do you have the necessary resources to accomplish this goal?
  • Time-bound
    • By when, exactly, will you complete this action?

SMART goal setting allows you to set clear and realistic expectations for each project, task, or role. Be sure to align your standards with your organization’s vision, mission, and values, and communicate them to your team in a way that they understand and accept. Everything should be connected and aligned to your vision, mission, and values.

2. Communicate Your Standards Regularly

The second step to hold your team accountable to your standards is to communicate them regularly and consistently. You need to make sure that your team members are aware of your standards and how they relate to their work. You can use different methods and channels to communicate your standards, such as meetings, emails, newsletters, reports, or dashboards. You also need to check for understanding and agreement, and address any questions, concerns, or feedback that your team may have. By communicating your standards regularly you reinforce their importance, clarify expectations, and avoid confusion or misunderstanding.

3. Monitor and Review Performance

The third step is to monitor and review their performance. You need to track and measure how your team is progressing towards the standards and goals, and identify any gaps, issues, or opportunities for improvement. You can use various tools and methods to monitor and review performance, such as reports, surveys, audits, or observations. You also need to involve your team in the process, and encourage them to self-monitor and self-evaluate their work. By monitoring and reviewing performance, you can provide timely and accurate feedback, support, and guidance to your team.

4. Provide Constructive Feedback and Recognition

The fourth step is to provide constructive feedback and recognition. Acknowledge and appreciate your team’s efforts and achievements and celebrate their successes. You also need to provide honest and specific feedback on their areas of improvement and help them develop action plans and solutions. You can use various techniques and strategies to provide constructive feedback and recognition, such as the sandwich method, the STAR method, or the feedback matrix. Be respectful, empathetic, and supportive, and avoid criticism, judgment, or blame. By providing constructive feedback and recognition, you motivate, inspire, and empower your team to perform better and meet your standards.

I like to set up what I call Coaching (Accountability) Conversations to accomplish steps 3 and 4, on an individual basis. A Coaching Conversation looks like this:

  1. Set mutually agreed upon goals
  2. Capability
    1. Do you have the capability to accomplish this goal?
    2. What will cause you to fail? Obstacles?
    3. How can I help you?
  3. Review progress, provide feedback and coaching
    1. Be consistent with this!
  4. Consequences
    1. Reward them
    2. Help them (repeat 1-4)
    3. Career Adjustment

5. Following Up

If you have laid out all of these steps to get your team’s accountability high, you can’t forget the last, crucial step. Following up is key to maintaining a continued consistency and a level of effectiveness and productivity that everyone will be proud of. Whether in person at their desk, or with a friendly email as an individual progresses in their tasks, following up is so important to keep everyone on the same page. When everyone is driven to succeed to their highest level, your business can only get better.