Does this sound familiar? Important things are falling through the cracks. Deadlines are being missed. You have to chase people down for status updates. When you ask why someone hasn’t taken action, they say, “I never got your email.”
Yes, your team can work like this, but it’s exhausting for them — and for you.
The Accountability Problem
“How can I increase accountability in the workplace?” As an account exec at Redbooth, this is a question I hear all the time — every week as I’m talking to marketing teams, IT teams, HR teams, operations teams, and more.
And it makes sense. Today, there is the concept of the “overwhelmed employee,” where employees are expected to manage input that’s more fragmented than ever, and there are frequently too many action items to accomplish in any given day. It’s started to feel normal, even if it’s holding entire teams back from reaching their potential.
Most of the leaders I talk with aren’t even sure how everyone is managing important action items – typically there isn’t consistency, as members of the same team may be using Outlook reminders, Post-it notes, Excel spreadsheets, free to-do apps, and who knows what else.
Why This Problem Is Important
This is more than just inconvenient. What it leads to is an inconsistent approach to team collaboration. Today, most companies’ competitive advantages lie in effective team collaboration and moving faster than their competition.
The problem with a system that doesn’t foster accountability is that it typically leads to team members moving more slowly, missing deadlines, and frequently feeling that they’re playing catch-up, as opposed to moving forward. This in turn can lead to losing that competitive edge that comes from from moving quickly as a team unit.
3 Challenges I Hear, and What You Might Need
Here are three of the most common challenges that I hear about in my phone conversations with Redbooth users and potential customers.
1. How can I get away from saying to my team “We agreed to do this 2 weeks ago, so why haven’t we made more progress?”
Most of the time I’m hearing this question from teams that are relying on email and Excel spreadsheets. Both methods become burdensome and outdated quickly.
Also, email is very hard to organize on a personal or team level. So an individual email message — even an important one — is very easily lost in a team member’s inbox. It’s very hard to prioritize unless a team member drops everything and prioritises it then and there.
What teams need to think about is this: how can we — as a team — assign ownership of action items out to members easily in a way that is seen by the entire team? And how can we make sure that team members experience it in a way that shows the action item is a priority that needs to be done by a certain date? Last but not least, how can we motivate them to adopt this new strategy to increase accountability in the workplace?
2. How can we give visibility and transparency to the team so that there is no miscommunication?
This is a case where Excel spreadsheets originally seem like a good solution but quickly fail the team. Most of the time a master spreadsheet isn’t hosted in the cloud, and so it isn’t visible to everyone in real time. It becomes very difficult to keep up to date without soaking up SIGNIFICANT time for manual entry.
Furthermore, if it isn’t up to date for everyone, then how valuable is it to everyone? How does someone take an action item on there and input it into their daily workflow?
The key is having a centralised, online team workspace where people can go for a specific team workflow or project and see not only what’s on their plate, but everyone else’s. This increases team transparency, reduces the need to chase people down, and gives a dynamic history of what activity has taken place over the course of the workflow or project.
3. How can we get an idea of what has already slipped through the cracks — and what’s in danger of falling through the cracks?
When things slip through the cracks, is your strategy in responding to them typically reactive? And is this reacting typically in the form of sending emails, setting up meetings, or calling up team members to chase them down?
Leaders of efficient teams realize that they need to respond in a more efficient way, and also be proactive when it comes to important action items on the horizon.
The team leaders I talk with often find that having a real-time report they can view at a high level to be useful — a report that pulls out what is overdue, and what’s not planned, and what’s most at risk of falling behind. The trick is to have a report that is dynamic, one where they are able to drill down into and immediately take action, get a status update, or re-assign if need be.
Another recommendation from top teams is being able to look at a more proactive report that shows what is coming up soon. This allows team leaders to keep eyes on these important action items as they near the due date, and to add in additional resources where they are needed before action items become late.
What’s next for your team?
When I ask teams what keeps them from being more productive, usually the first answer I hear is that they need to stop focusing on the past and chasing each other down, and instead have a methodology for accountability that allows things to get done without being late so they may move forward.
When your team can make ownership crystal clear, increase visibility and transparency, and catch action items that are in the danger zone or on their way there, increased accountability in the workplace is sure to follow.