What Is Team Accountability? (And How to Increase It)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 17, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Accountability within a business is an important aspect of reaching goals, meeting targets, and creating a productive workplace. It can arise from several factors, including communication, workplace culture, and management structure. Knowing what accountability in teams is and how to increase it can help you improve your team's efficiency and hold them accountable. In this article, we define team accountability, discuss its benefits, explain how to improve it, and offer tips for implementing it successfully in a business.

What is team accountability?

Team accountability is the overall ability of a team to meet its goals, targets, and deadlines efficiently. While accountability in teams encompasses the entire team working on a project, much of the team's success comes from the individual accountability of its members. Without each team member being individually accountable, it may be difficult to measure the efficiency of a team. Accountability usually ensures professionals take ownership for their work, successes, and mistakes. It may also help determine whether the entire team is acting cohesively to reach its goal.

Read more: How to Build a Successful Team in 8 Steps

Benefits of team accountability

There are several benefits to having strong accountability in teams. Here are some of their examples:

Improves communication

Having strong accountability in teams means holding each member accountable for their work. This usually requires good communication among colleagues to ensure that each member is actively working toward achieving team goals. Effective communication may lead to increased productivity, creativity, and innovation, all of which can help businesses to stay competitive.

Related: A Guide to Effective Group Communication (With Tips)

Improves team collaboration

Higher accountability in teams can lead to higher rates of collaboration as teams remember to hold each other accountable for their work and actions. This can benefit not only the business but also the corporate culture. Team collaboration can lead to higher team connection, which can improve team morale and create a better working environment.

Read more: What Is Work Culture? Definition, Elements, and Examples

Promotes ownership

Improving accountability in teams can help team members feel ownership over their work. Knowing that they're solely responsible for meeting deadlines can help them feel empowered in the workplace. It can also make them learn the value of an excellent work ethic, which is a valuable asset for employees to have if they want to advance their careers or find a new job.

Reduces conflict

A workplace conflict may occur when a team member blames their colleagues for errors in a project or task. When leaders clearly define roles and everyone is accountable for their own work, teams can link mistakes back to specific team members to revise and correct. Accountability in teams can also help employees feel more pride in their work, which can cause them to accept mistakes and react more positively to feedback they receive.

Read more: 8 Steps for Conflict Resolution at Work

Ensures high transparency

Accountability often motivates team members to complete their work properly. It can also allow them to learn more about the roles of their teammates. This knowledge usually results in higher team transparency and improved collaboration and support.

Forecasts errors

Working cohesively as a team can help identify and forecast potential errors and problems before they arise. This is because team members feel responsible for the work of their teammates. As they check each step of the tasks their colleagues have completed, the chances of identifying and mitigating errors improve.

How to improve team accountability

Consider following these five steps to improve accountability among business teams:

1. Define roles and specify tasks

Improving accountability usually begins by setting clear definitions of roles and responsibilities. This can include the specific roles and tasks of individual team members and the overall responsibilities of teams in an organization. When problems arise, team leaders can know who to communicate with to resolve the issue.

Related: How to Delegate Authority: A Guide on Team Optimization

2. Set clear expectations

Being specific in outlining goals, tasks, and expectations can help reduce misunderstandings. When employees know exactly what their roles and tasks entail, they can work toward their goals more efficiently. This can improve the overall productivity of teams.

3. Create a communication channel

Great accountability in teams usually requires effective team communication. Creating a communication channel may be an excellent way to check in on team members and ensure everyone is working toward the same goals. This can also help team members quickly exchange important information relative to their tasks.

Read more: 7 Essential Channels of Communication in the Workplace

4. Establish goals and key performance indicators

Setting clear goals and key performance indicators can ensure all team members are working toward the same outcome. This can help teams align in their work and find a collaborative purpose. Goals and key performance indicators may also give team leaders a metric to measure against when tracking the success of their teams.

5. Hold team members accountable

The concept of accountability in teams entails holding each team member accountable for their work. Checking whether your colleagues have met their deadlines may allow you to introduce the concept of accountability to your team. Weekly status reports can be a great way to ensure a team is working toward its goals, and it may provide team leaders with the opportunity to see which team members complete their tasks in a timely manner.

Related: Accountable vs. Responsible: How Are They Different?

Tips for implementing a team accountability plan

Consider following these tips when looking to improve accountability in teams:

Stay flexible

Accountability in teams can be a new concept for a lot of businesses and, therefore, can take time and patience to implement. Staying flexible in your implementation may allow you to find what works best for your teams. Consider starting with weekly or biweekly check-ins, which can later switch to monthly check-ins when teams adapt to the new routine. Remaining flexible can allow your teams to adjust their current working patterns over time instead of right away.

Collect feedback

A great way to learn if your new program is working can be to collect feedback from your colleagues. As they learn to become more accountable, ask for their opinion on how the new program is affecting them and their work. From here, you can make changes that suit the needs of your colleagues. For example, some team members may find biweekly check-ins challenging and may not enjoy presenting their work in front of a team. With feedback, you can adjust your methods and e-mail check-ins or hold private meetings instead.

Embrace mistakes

With increased accountability, teams may make more mistakes public, as leaders check their work more frequently. Creating a culture in which each person learns to embrace mistakes is important for maintaining company culture and a workplace where people feel comfortable knowing they have areas to improve. Team leaders can also consider sharing mistakes they make with team members and meeting new mistakes with positive reinforcement.

Offer rewards

A great motivator of accountability in teams may be rewards. This can give team members an end goal to work toward and compensate their initial feeling of vulnerability. Rewards may soften the implementation of an accountability plan and help improve the working environment and culture of an organization. Consider introducing a rewards system for teams within the first year of implementing your accountability plan.

Lead by example

As a leader, holding yourself accountable is the first step to building accountability in teams. Therefore, it's important to avoid covering up mistakes or holding others responsible for your errors. Team members can feel more comfortable sharing their mistakes when they can see their leader doing the same.

The culture you built in a business can dictate how employees act and feel about their work. In an accountable team, you usually want members to feel empowered and confident in the work they're producing. Consider showing this confidence in your own work as a leader to encourage them to do the same.

Read more: 8 Essential Tips for Leading by Example in the Workplace

Stay focused

Accountability in teams can lead to greater productivity, improved communication, and smoother operations in a business. While implementing an accountability plan can be challenging, it's important to stay focused on the goal of improving it. This process usually becomes easier to manage as team members adapt to it over time.

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