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Accountability in the Workplace: How to Help Your Team Achieve Their Goals

Dec 16, '17 / by Beth Carter

Accountability in the Workplace: How to Help Your Team Achieve Their Goals

It’s that time of year – when marketing teams are held accountable to the goals they set for the past year, all while new goals for the new year are busy being made.

This emphasis on goals is the hallmark of an effective and healthy marketing strategy. But setting goals is the easy part; achieving goals is much harder. Life gets messy, we all get busy, and particularly for a time-strapped marketing team, those long-term strategic goals are often the last thing on your mind when you’re working under a tight deadline for a short-term project.

For the people who lead these teams, this presents a real challenge: How do you hold your team members accountable for all the goals they need to reach?

In search of an answer, we recently caught up with Phyllis Campagna, a Chartered Business Coach™ and owner of Excelsis Performance Strategies, to explore this issue of accountability in the workplace and see if she had any helpful advice on setting and achieving goals. She offered a wealth of advice, which we’ve recounted below.

Q: What needs to happen to create accountability in the workplace?

For accountability to happen, first you need to get buy-in. If you don’t have buy-in, you may be able to order people to do something, but you can’t get them to want to do it. Buy-in is key.

So, for example, you could order your employee to have a project back to you by 5:00 today. Or you could ask the employee, “I’d like to have this by 5:00. Is this reasonable for you? Can you achieve this?” And that gives the employee the room to say, “Yes, I can do this,” or “No, with my current workload I need until tomorrow.”

That’s buy-in. You need that communication to take place.

Also, it’s not enough to communicate only at the beginning. You have to maintain communication and follow-up at regular intervals.

A business I admire has a sign on every desk in the building that says, “Don’t expect what you don’t inspect.” I love that! If we’re talking about management, you can’t expect employees to perform if you’re not checking on them. I don’t mean hovering over them, but set a deadline, get the person to agree to it, and then follow-up.

So, for example again, you might say, “I need this report by 5:00 every Monday. Whether I’m in town or not, please email it to me. If for any reason you’re going to miss that, please email me and let me know the new deadline.

And then as the manager, you can put this on your own calendar, and you can follow-up with the employee periodically. It’s not micromanagement, but the project becomes part of the employee’s benchmark, and the employee knows she’ll be rated on this.

The final step to true accountability is stewardship.

With stewardship, management is focused on results, rather than the specific process it takes to get the results. So in this case, you might say to the employee, “We need a report that produces this information. Here are the parameters for what we need, and here are some guidelines and a few examples. Please give me a status update by Wednesday at 4:00. Do you have any problem with that? If you’re unable to give me the status report, please contact me before Wednesday and let me know.”

Now, you’ve achieved buy-in, you’ve established how you plan to follow-up, but you’ve also given the person the freedom to use her own expertise to navigate the project.

Q: This sounds great for short-term, clearly defined projects. But is accountability different for stretch goals or goals that will be hard to achieve?

With stretch goals, it’s important to define both the goals and your expectations.

Too often, goals are amorphous and hard to specifically pin down. Wherever possible, be concrete with your goal: “We’re going to grow this company by 23% next year, and to help us get there, we’re going to launch a new digital advertising campaign.” This makes the goal and your expectations quite clear.

But you still need that buy-in! Particularly if (as part of our example) your team hasn’t managed many digital ad campaigns before, be open about the challenge: “I understand this is going to require us to build some new skill sets, which will be important for us to help expand the company. I have an idea of how I’d like to distribute this new work, but I’d like to hear your ideas first.”

You want your team members to feel vested in this by involving them in creating the goal. This also gives them a valuable opportunity to showcase their own abilities for you. Using our current example, you can ask, “Do any of you have experience with creating digital ads? Can you tell us about what you’ve done?”


Related Content: Building Your Best Content Marketing Team: How Hungry Is Your Talent?


If it’s really a stretch goal, some objections may begin to surface – and that’s okay. Objections need to be addressed early on. So when someone says, “No, we can’t do this – it’s impossible,” examine this together. Maybe the person has a valid concern you haven’t considered? Or maybe it’s just a general lack of confidence. Either way, you want these objections out in the open and part of the conversation, so they don’t quietly fester and snowball into something bigger that derails things later on.

Q: Once a project is underway, how do you coach your team members to maintain that motivation?

This is interesting, because it’s easy to give lip service to a goal, but sooner or later it’s going to become obvious if a team member isn’t really on board. Simply knowing what needs to happen isn’t the same thing as putting in the energy to make it happen.

Motivation here is key. Your team needs to know what’s in it for them. If you hit the goal, how will you celebrate? What’s the reward? Is it a party, or is it job security? A raise? Recognition?

In particular, don’t underestimate the power of recognition. Stephen Covey said, “Trust is the highest form of human motivation.” When a manager says, “I believe in us, and I believe we can do this,” that is incredibly motivating! But if you’re asking someone to work hard just because they have to, well, where’s the appreciation in that?

Keep in mind, everyone has a different “love language.” People are motivated by different things, and not every person wants the same type of reward. Some people crave recognition, while others hate being publicly singled out for anything (even if it’s praise). What’s the love language for your team members?

If you have children, you understand this. Each child has different motivations. As a parent, you speak to each child differently, and they each respond to you differently, too.

Management is the same. And as a manager, it’s up to you to learn what motivates each of your employees, so you can set each one up to be successful and hit the goals they need to reach.

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Topics: Strategy

Beth Carter
Written by Beth Carter

I love to write and I'm a total grammar freak. I also passionately believe that conversational, approachable and insightful content can help people solve real problems and can make a real difference in the world.

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