An organizational culture that strives for high performance is made up of teams that hold each other accountable. The highest-performing teams not only give each other permission to call individual team members out; they also request (or even insist) on that level of accountability from (and for) each other.
While they may choose to compete against their own best performance, this kind of accountability doesn’t necessarily mean they compete with one another. Instead, they compete against the internal public standard that the team has established.
A healthy culture of peer accountability is crucial for the success of your team. Below, we discuss why peer accountability is important and the elements you need as a leader to cultivate this kind of environment.
Why is Peer Accountability Important?
A positive workplace culture cannot exist without accountability. A culture of accountability means that everyone takes individual ownership of their goals. Teammates have growth mindsets and welcome feedback to improve their performance. They know that other teammates count on their performance, so they want to be as effective as possible.
A culture of accountability is results-focused. Results-focused accountability means that team members are willing to put aside their egos for the sake of overall achievement and team unity.
Furthermore, peer accountability encourages employees to give high performances and fosters a spirit of innovation among the team. Accountability keeps employees engaged while they are at work. Studies show that only 13% of employees are engaged at work. Therefore, increasing peer accountability can drive results and keep employees fulfilled.
So how can you establish peer accountability within your organization? Here are the five principles of peer accountability.
5 Principles of Peer Accountability
- Clear, Measurable Expectations
If you don’t set clear and measurable expectations for your team, their motivation will be low. How can they accomplish a goal if you do not define it for them?
Your team should be able to easily determine whether they’ve met your expectations or not. You can help them alleviate stress by providing concrete measurements for their performance.
- Transparent Communication
Teammates should never complain to others if one team member isn’t pulling their weight on a project. They should speak directly, respectfully, and positively to the teammate.
They should also ask the teammate discerning questions to establish clear communication standards. Part of peer accountability and communication means taking the time to practice it. If someone on a team cannot understand the meaning behind a message or email, they shouldn’t rely on guesswork to understand it. Teams should make it a practice to adjust communication until both parties understand one another.
And of course, individuals on a team should not expect other team members to read between the lines on any communication. Everyone should be as direct as possible.
- Model Accountability
Become a role model to others through your behavior. Live up to the example of your work by consistently demonstrating the qualities and standards you expect from your teammates.
By embodying an accountability mindset, colleagues will naturally admire and emulate your behavior. This is what leadership is truly about.
Own up to your mistakes without pointing fingers. Take the initiative to solve problems when they arise. Remember, nothing in your organization is beneath you as a leader.
- Frequent Feedback
Encourage or have a policy of frequent feedback. Organize weekly, monthly, or quarterly feedback sessions for leadership and team members.
At Arootah, we often use the phrase “Kill the monster while it is tiny,” which means that we choose to handle issues while they’re small and before they become big destructive “monsters.” Frequent feedback and corresponding “course correction” can prevent you from veering too far off course.
This feedback also provides your team with the opportunity to celebrate wins. When a conflict or problem is resolved, take the opportunity to celebrate. This kind of positive reinforcement adds to the accountability structure of your organization.
Remember, feedback (even when constructive) should add value to someone’s work experience, not take away from it. Make sure all parties working on a project understand and value feedback.
- A “Learn from Mistakes” Culture
Build a culture of responsibility, not blame. The brain is already in the habit of learning from mistakes. Data now shows that your brain alerts you to a mistake less than a second after making it to train you not to make the same mistake again.
In other words, your brain will react to a mistake before your conscious mind can register it. There is no need to establish blame from outside sources once you discover a mistake. Instead, look at the mistake as a learning opportunity and help your team grow from it.
The Bottom Line
A healthy culture of peer accountability is crucial for the success of your team. You can cultivate the peer accountability your team needs to thrive through five simple principles.
When you and your team all want to reach new milestones for your organization successfully, accountability will come naturally. When team members are held accountable by their peers, they will feel like their work is valued.
For more information about leading a team, take a look at our Success Formula ebook.
What is your experience with peer accountability? Let us know in the comments below!
Peer accountability can be really tricky but I think it does help bring the team closer together and build better communication.