How to be an accountable teammate

Few things are more frustrating than a teammate pointing fingers when something doesn’t get done. Accountability is the key to putting an end to the blame game and becoming more productive.

Teams that build accountability into everything they do get more done. Partly, it’s a result of genuine care: when you are personally accountable for results, it matters more to you that the work turns out well.

When every person on your team feels accountable, you’ll achieve and exceed goals.

Accountable Teammates Unaccountable Teammates
Get work done within the committed timeframe Get work done on their own schedule
Know who’s responsible for each area of work Get confused about responsibility and process
Understand how their contributions support team goals Don’t know how their work relates to the big picture
Agree to goals, priorities, and deadlines with their team Keep goals private or don’t set goals
Own responsibility for a specific area of the organization Expect responsibility to belong to only a few people at the top
Can contribute their full talents Contribute at a fraction of what they are capable of

Creating a culture of accountability

Designate a clear stakeholder for each task

A common obstacle to accountability is confusion over who’s doing what, when. Especially when projects involve many teammates and steps and you use email to coordinate; it’s easy to say, “I didn’t realize I was responsible” or “I didn’t know that was the due date.”

Eliminate confusion by designating one Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) for every task. The DRI may have a huge team behind them to help execute that work, but there’s never a question about who owns the task and who is driving it forward.

Asana Tip: Asana tasks were built based on the DRI model. In Asana, every task has one assignee and a due date. If a task involves more than one teammate, use subtasks to assign responsibility for the individual steps. Add followers to keep the right teammates in the loop.

Create goals as a team

Owning responsibility for a task is easier when you understand exactly how it supports broader goals. Knowing your work matters, no matter how trivial it may seem, you care more about getting it done.

Make sure teammates have an understanding of how their work relates to the broader goals and values of your company. This way, everyone can see a direct line between their work and the company’s desired outcome.

Asana Tip: Add all of your company’s goals to an Asana project. The project will give everyone at your company a high-level view of what teams are working on.

Declare your commitments

Accountability begins with an agreement to achieve a goal and meet a specified due date. Make goals, tasks, and due dates public to show your team you are committed to getting the work done.

When you put yourself on the line in front of your team, you won’t want to disappoint your peers. Letting people know what you are working on and when it needs to get done puts you in a better position to receive support.

Asana Tip: Create a project in Asana for team milestones and review them in Calendar view once a week. Commit to completing milestone tasks by the set due date, and share the outcomes from the previous week.

Don’t get slowed down by managerial hierarchy

Rather than have responsibility flow through a managerial hierarchy, distribute it as evenly as possible across the entire team. For instance, on the design team, one teammate can be responsible for layout, another for design onboarding, and a third can maintain the style guide.

Distributing responsibility allows teammates to become leaders in their own areas of the organization. Management can still play an important role by providing support and helping with big decisions, but giving teammates ownership over a piece of the work helps them feel accountable.

Treat failure as an opportunity

When teammates miss their goals or milestones, don’t say, “You screwed up.” Instead, help the person learn from their mistakes. Have an honest discussion: What got in the way of succeeding? What can be done differently next time? When you use failure as an opportunity to self-reflect, you’ll have a higher chance of success in the future.

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