Increasing Accountability Without Decreasing Autonomy

Improve productivity on a chalk boardIt goes without saying that effective leaders strive to train reliable, autonomous employees who can effectively complete their job tasks without the need for constant supervision.

However, even the most experienced leaders can struggle to find ways to track employee productivity without coming across as an overbearing micromanager. Fortunately, leaders can hold employees accountable for work progress without decreasing their hard-earned, and often highly prised, sense of autonomy.

The first step in introducing a new leadership style or accountability method is to discuss the action plan with employees. Each member of the team, from the most senior leaders down to the newest trainee, should know their role within team and the organisation. A job analysis should be conducted for each project and position, and an appropriate accountability measure selected. Leaders should discuss benchmarks and measurement methods with employees, and ensure everybody is on board with the planned change.

Leaders should encourage all employees to have a sense of ownership over their work.

One of the best ways to increase accountability is to encourage employees to feel a sense of ownership over their own work and the work of the team as a whole. Whenever possible, leaders should divide projects so that employees have to collaborate to finish the final product. Each employee should feel free to complete their own tasks individually, ideally with information garnered from a colleagues finished tasks. This peer accountability can help to increase productivity while still allowing employees to feel autonomous in their individual role.

A classic weekly team meeting can be restructured into a motivating and entertaining part of the work week and used to encourage peer accountability. Brief meetings can be used at the beginning of the week to assign individual and team goals and at the end of the week to discuss progress and achievements. Providing light snack and source of caffeine can also help to make the process more enjoyable for everyone.

Ideally, meetings should take no more than 5 minutes per employee to prevent boredom and minimise time spent away from job tasks. While visual presentations are necessary to display some types of information, preparing for these meetings should not be the primary focus of the work week. Employees will appreciate any effort made to keep the conversation short and engaging. For larger teams and more detailed projects, holding separate breakout meetings can help keep the total unproductive time down for everyone.

For job tasks that are primarily computer based, the possibilities for peer review are endless. There are a multitude of software options that allow files to be shared across virtual work spaces and to be edited simultaneously. A basic file-sharing platform can allow managers to log in and easily see who has edited project files and when, without employees feeling spied on. For more advanced long-term projects, multi-user file management programs can be used to track progress for each employee.

As everyone settles into their new roles, leaders will find that employees working in teams are more secure in their positions and better able to harness their creativity. Encouraging leaders to act as a supporting resource instead of slave drivers and using peer-accountability will continue to foster trust between employees and leaders that will quickly translate into a motivated, engaged, and productive work team.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training   

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Updated on: 3 December, 2014

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