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The Alternative Board Blog

How to Hold Your Team Accountable through Goal Setting

Mar. 3, 2020 | Posted by The Alternative Board

Forming and leading teams of employees can significantly boost productivity in the workplace. The key to making this work is accountability. Every member of the team must be held accountable for their role and engage fully in the project or initiative underway.

When accountability isn’t emphasized, the team “may begin to resent the low-performing employee and his or her manager,” notes Insperity, “because they have to shoulder more work to make up for their teammate’s deficiencies.” Moreover, if the problem isn’t addressed, “the team may perceive it as favoritism or weakness, which can be demotivating for everyone.”

Any incidence of “slacking off” or showing favoritism towards an under-performing employee affects the entire team and can threaten the success of a project or initiative.

How can setting concrete goals enhance accountability within the team?

Choose the right SMART goals.

Whatever the situation, employees need to clearly understand key objectives and expectations set around those objectives. A good place to start is with SMART goals—that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

Put SMART goals into writing for both individual team members and for the entire team. This helps remove any potential ambiguity or confusion about what’s at stake, and makes it easier to measure progress towards completion of the goal.

Communicate, then communicate some more.

Letting employees know what’s expected of them is a key step in gaining accountability through goal setting. Key messages include:

  • A detailed explanation of the work ahead
  • Each individual’s role within the team
  • Understanding what’s expected of the team as a whole

With communication, you can encourage employees “to work through challenges as a team,” notes the Flock Blog. The team leader’s job is to offer “honest feedback and support on a consistent basis,” letting the team “know you’re there if they need help.” That’s why communications around goals and performance “needs to be emphasized and omnipresent.”

Want additional insight? Download Productivity Hacks for Business Owners 


Schedule ongoing strategy meetings.

As noted, SMART goals must be measured. Holding regularly scheduled meetings to determine progress towards a specific goal can contribute to productivity. As part of the meetings, conversation should center around “what it’s going to take to make sure each team member is pulling his weight,” notes the computer software firm Keap, “and what measures will be taken to ensure certain people are being held responsible for keeping the momentum going.”

Of course, these conversations should focus on the positive (such as detailing progress made to date and achieving pre-set milestones). Discussions around accountability are generally most productive when the tone is upbeat, supportive, and pointed towards the future. Finger-pointing and singling people out for blame isn’t effective for motivating the team.

Address situations where team members fall short of their goals.

It’s not a conversation anyone wants to have, but when a team or individual team members fall short of the goal, it’s a conversation that has to take place. Just remember that when talking about missed targets and goals, “generalities won’t work.” You must offer specific examples of where an employee falls short, so there’s no confusion about how to improve performance towards achieving that goal.

The best way to ensure that team members reach their goals is through proactively determining exactly what goals to aim for and how to get there. In this way, every member of the team “should feel a sense of ownership for their workplace results and what it takes to achieve those results.”

CEOs and business owners must also hold themselves accountable through goal setting. To learn more, check out our complimentary TAB Whitepaper, “Productivity Hacks for Business Owners.”

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by The Alternative Board

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