In any workplace, accountability is an important value for every member of the team to uphold. Without dedication to accountability, the workplace can devolve into a cycle of blaming, pushing off responsibilities onto others and stalled progress on projects.
When each member of the team clearly understands his role and the responsibilities associated with that role, accountability is an implicit condition of his employment. Employers can stress the importance of accountability and clarify any misunderstandings their teams have about their responsibilities through responsibility training activities.
Why Is Accountability Important?
Accountability in the workplace is important because it ensures that tasks are completed correctly and maintains group harmony. Accountability is the responsibility to ensure that specific tasks are completed, whether that requires the accountable individual to complete the tasks herself or delegate them to others in the workplace.
Companies can help employees hold themselves accountable for their required tasks by being clear about exactly what is expected of each role. When an employee is not sure whether a specific task is her job or not, she might assume it is somebody else’s responsibility and fail to perform it.
Responsibility Training Activities
One popular way to develop employee accountability is through accountability workshop exercises. Two popular responsibility training activities are Coach the Builder and Bombardment. Other activities are less structured and can be made into long-term workplace activities, like giving each employee a small plant to nurture at his desk or regularly getting involved with local nonprofit organizations.
Coach the Builder is a popular exercise for training accountability and teamwork. In this activity, the team is split into groups and given two sets of blocks. One member, the leader, builds an object from the blocks and explains to another, the delegator, how he did so. The delegator then has to walk the builder through the process to construct a replica of the original object with the second set of blocks as the rest of the group looks on.
Bombardment is another kind of exercise that forces employees to deliver constructive criticism and reflect on their own strengths and shortcomings. In this exercise, each team member is given a brief window during which he is the receiver of feedback. During this window, each member answers two questions about him as he listens:
- What is his most important contribution to the team?
- In which areas does he need to improve for the team’s overall benefit?
Accountability Training Scenarios
Beyond conducting organized training activities, employers can help their teams develop their accountability skills by walking them through accountability training scenarios. Often, this is done through role playing. With the team together and watching, two or more members are asked to play specific roles, such as a supervisor and her assistant or a sales representative and a prospective client. The players are given a scenario to work through that tests their understanding of accountability and their ability to solve accountability challenges quickly and adeptly.
One of the accountability workshop exercises used in this way might be a scenario where the supervisor is scheduled to be out of the office for two weeks and requests that her assistant handle all client interactions and bookings while she is gone. The assistant is accountable for all of these actions while the supervisor is out, and if he fails to perform these tasks successfully, the company can lose clients and lose money. By role playing interactions with clients on his supervisor’s behalf, including diffusing conflicts and upselling clients, the employee practices accountability for these tasks while his colleagues look on and learn.
Accountability training scenarios like these do not just develop employees’ responsibility. They also teach critical-thinking skills, problem-solving skills, integrity and teamwork.
Discussing Accountability as a Team
After each one of the accountability workshop exercises, the supervisor should lead a discussion about what the team learned during the exercise. This discussion should cover:
- Similar real-life scenarios where the team will have to be accountable
- Employees’ experiences with these scenarios
- Previous instances when team members were accountable or not and what happened as a result
- How to resolve problems that arise from accountability lapses
Teams can revisit responsibility training exercises regularly to strengthen their existing skills and build on them. By making accountability training a regular part of professional development, a company can easily cultivate a culture of accountability.