When we feel cared for and valued at work, we are more likely to enjoy coming in every day. And when we feel supported in our career growth, we’re more likely to be engaged and do our best work. What more could you ask for from your team than showing up and doing their best every day? I believe that the most important practices for creating a supportive environment are consistent feedback, accountability, and recognition.
Accountability is about expectation setting. What is expected of you, what measures are put in place to make sure you meet what is expected of you, and what happens if you don’t meet expectations? Accountability and expectations might sound harsh but when it comes to a supportive work environment, knowing goals and expectations helps everyone share in each other’s professional challenges and accomplishments. We can support and celebrate our team and each other when we’re all accountable.
Accountability and goals
Accountability is crucial to achieving goals. Each step you take planning your achievement increases your likelihood that you’ll be successful. The American Society of Training and Development studied accountability and found that you increase your odds of success by 25% if you decide that you will achieve a goal, 40% if you decide when you will achieve it, 50% if you plan how you’ll achieve it, 65% percent if you share your commitment to your goal with someone else and 95% if you have regular check-in meetings with someone on your progress.
Identify accountability strategies that work
Everyone has accountability strategies that work best for them. An effective leader recognizes this and doesn’t try to use a one size fits all approach for every member on their team. The key to identifying which strategy works for each person is to spend some time identifying what motivates your team. Figuring out which strategy works best for each team member goes a long way in helping your team reach their individual and team goals, increasing overall team success.
For me, deadlines are my number one motivator when it comes to achieving a goal. Any time there is a ticking clock on something, I feel pressure to get it done. Deadlines can be an effective strategy for people who are either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. For those intrinsically motivated, often the deadline is enough but for those extrinsically motivated, showing them how others are affected if the deadline is missed can help make the deadline more meaningful. But be careful not to set unrealistic deadlines. Unrealistic deadlines dilute the meaning of future deadlines and can lead to burnout. If you don’t need a deliverable for 3 weeks, then don’t set a 3-day deadline.
Another accountability strategy that works well is to set mini-goals, breaking down the steps it will take to achieve your goal. For example, if you have a goal to give a conference talk, your mini-goals might be to
- Identify talk topics that you’re passionate about
- Write a talk proposal
- Write your speaker bio
- Submit your talk proposal to 5 conferences (repeat as needed)
- Get accepted to speak 🎉
- Put your slides together
- Practice your talk
- Give your talk at the conference 💃
Coupling these mini-goals with deadlines of their own further increases your chance of success.
Sharing your goals with other people increases your chance of achieving them by 65%. Find yourself an accountability buddy (accountabilibuddy?) and make your goals known. This person can be a source of encouragement and motivation and a well of ideas for how to continue on your path if you get stuck. Even better, share your goals with your team so they can all be a source of support for you. They may even be able to connect you with people or resources to help you get where you’re going.
Finally, tracking your progress especially with another person can be a key strategy for succeeding. Regular check-ins allow you space to reflect on your goals, your progress, and any barriers that you’ve encountered. It also provides the opportunity to make sure that your goals are still aligned with your values. These check-ins should be with someone who you feel comfortable being honest with and who will also push you to be honest with yourself if you’re not following through on what you said.
You should also be using this time to celebrate your accomplishments up to this point! Be careful not to feel like you’re not getting to where you want to be fast enough. If you are taking steps towards your goal that progress should be recognized.
Offering supportive accountability
Not every strategy outlined above works for every person and some strategies work better than others. It’s important to get to know your team members and what works for them. If deadlines cause someone a lot of anxiety, find another strategy that works for them so you don’t have to center the deadline. Sometimes, people haven’t found an accountability strategy that works for them or they haven’t thought about it before. As a leader or any supportive team member, you can give them some ideas and guide them through some different strategies until they find what works for them.
Offer to be an accountability buddy for someone whose goals feel aligned with your talents and support them across the finish line. Model accountability for your team and share your goals with them. If you’re asked to give feedback in a peer review, reflect on what you know about this person’s goals (or ask them if you don’t) and give them feedback that will help them achieve their goals.
Talking about accountability can feel rigid but in the context of a team, accountability is one of the main components to building a supportive environment. When we share accountability with each other, we’re more able to support each other to our success. Our last post in this series will talk about the final pillar in supportive team environments, recognition.