8 Ways to Create Accountability Within Your Team



There’s work to get done, a team to manage, and strategic planning goals you’ve got to hit. Life is stressful as a people manager. You’ve got to be on top of your game to make it all happen.

None of this proves truer than in a multigenerational team. Some folks respond well to tech-forward solutions, while others thrive in face-to-face settings. To leverage the best of all of these worlds, consider these eight tips as you drive your team toward accountability.

1. Schedule Regular Status Meetings

Even the most routine projects can fall victim to apathy. When teams become apathetic about projects, mistakes are easier to make. What’s worse, lack of motivation can bleed over into other projects. Avoid this fate and even worse disasters by scheduling regular status meetings. They don’t need to be long meetings, but they should be effective.

Status meetings give you and your team time to check in on your projects in a planned, organized manner. Establish an agenda to guide your conversation and manage the cadence of your review. (There are meeting agenda templates that will make this a snap.) The purpose of these meetings should be to go over what’s been accomplished, what needs to be done, and who’s accountable. Set deadlines and schedule breakout meetings to clarify expectations and avoid devolving into unnecessary deep dives.

2. Develop a Strategic Project Plan Before Work Starts

Even if your deliverable is straightforward, you should always develop a plan before you begin assigning tasks. Work with your team to develop a strategic project plan that covers goals, deliverables, review process, deadlines, and your measurement approach. Finalize the plan together and agree on its contents, then get to work.

With a clear mission in front of your team, they’ll be all-in on the strategy and clear on what’s expected. Team members will be more aware of each other’s workload and what steps must be completed before others can begin. Use your project plan as a discussion item for check-ins and empower your people to keep it up-to-date.

3. Communicate Your Expectations Clearly

Telling a subordinate “make sure people know about X” simply won’t cut it. Your assignment may be interpreted as “send an email” or “develop a full-blown marketing campaign.” Your clarification and specificity will make a difference to your satisfaction with the results. Drill down to the details and make your expectations clear when creating assignments.

It may be tempting to swing by a colleague’s office to drop off a quick assignment. In this casual setting, they may not have enough time to think about it, let alone ask the right questions. Consider providing assignments in a formal setting like a meeting or one-on-one check-in where you can have a dialogue. Follow up in writing regarding the assignment, deadline, and method of delivery to be crystal clear about what’s expected. 

4. Assign Action Items in Real Time

Amp up the engagement and the effectiveness of your project meetings by making assignments in real time. Using this approach, you open the floor to rich discussions about strategy and tactics. You also have dedicated time to discuss any constraints, scheduling issues, or competing projects.

This assignment strategy eliminates the series of meetings where the words, “We should really do X” are uttered. Because you’re making assignments as the need arises, you’re creating a culture of accountability.

Leverage your time together to cover the next steps of your project, since the entire team has exposure to the workload. Empower your team to keep each other accountable as they move the work forward. Update your project plan during meetings and include any changes in scope and assignments on meeting minutes. Working through this together allows any issues to be addressed before expectations are assumed.

5. Be Diligent About Deadlines

Deadlines are essential to getting anything done in life, but addressing missed deadlines can be uncomfortable. This discomfort is exacerbated by the potential for confrontation about the flub. It can be hard to muster the courage to bring up the issue in the first place.

Avoid this fate by setting deadlines, sticking to them, and intentionally following up. While there are situations that can impact deadlines, hold firm on the dates that are set. Often, one deadline dictates whether the next stage of the project is on time. Set a standard of checking in on deadlines as they are near and encourage your team to self-report progress in advance.

6. Use Project Management Software to Your Advantage

Project management software can be a lifesaver and translate your project plan and deadlines into an accountability tool. While it doesn’t negate the need for good project and people management, it can help you drive projects forward. Most platforms allow you to drill down into the details, make assignments, and establish deadlines. You can also set alerts for nearing, due, or missed deadlines so you never miss a beat.

If project management software is new for your team, offer robust training before you launch it. Without training, team members will utilize it at different levels of effectiveness. Confusion around your new tool could cause frustration and animosity. Take the time to train, use it in meetings, and offer support on an ongoing basis.

7. Showcase Visual Progress Boards

Sometimes you just can’t beat a visual depiction of the progress you’ve made. Remember the fundraising thermometer in front of your high school? A physical representation of your project progress and deadlines can be a big motivator. Adapt this practice to your own purposes by displaying your project status in a public space in your workplace.

You can achieve this by using a monitor located in your work space to show project statuses. Use a simple whiteboard to house daily or weekly project goals and who they’re assigned to. Encourage your team to update the board with their accomplishments by checking off the work they’ve completed. This tactile way of viewing project progress is encouraging and improves peer accountability without tension.

If your team is remote, leverage your collaboration software’s chat room. Share project management dashboards and acknowledge the team’s accomplishments and projects to boost morale and encourage accountability.

8. Consider Daily Stand-Up Meetings to Keep the Momentum

The start of each work day can be overwhelming. With so many deliverables on your team’s plate, it can be a big lift just to get started. Pair a mounting to-do list with your need to understand the status of each core project, and it’s almost noon. Now it’s time for lunch, and no one has a chance to get into a flow state.

Tackle the early morning lift by starting the day with a stand-up meeting. Gather in the center of your common workplace and spend 15 or fewer minutes sharing the goals of the day. This is the time to call out the need to collaborate. Encourage your team to share the desire for time or noise boundaries and address the day’s deadlines. For remote teams, a daily stand-up can easily be digital; just ensure everyone has a chance to speak.

Encouraging accountability takes time, initiative, and intention. Lead your team to execution excellence by laying the groundwork for trust and accountability. With your leadership, your team members will keep each other accountable and ensure you’re informed, all while crushing their goals.

Angela is a senior editor at Dreniq News. She has written for many famous news agencies.