Magazine article Supervisory Management

Making Work Teams Accountable

Magazine article Supervisory Management

Making Work Teams Accountable

Article excerpt

With individual employees, you can count on personal ambition, a sense of loyalty to you, a desire for more money or power, or fear of unemployment to inspire accountability and productivity. You can't count on any one of those factors to inspire a team. But there are ways to get a team to pull together and feel a collective responsibility. Here are a few tips from some successful managers to keep you on the right track:

* "When you have a team reporting to you, you really can't afford to be disliked. You don't have to be liked. But you have to be respected and trusted. Otherwise, team members will talk among themselves about what a jerk you are--and they will sabotage you."

* "Make it clear that team members are accountable to the team, and that the team is accountable to you. That way, team members will be productive for one another's sake."

* "Give the team maximum freedom and authority. As much as possible, let them do things their own way, so long as they work. This means giving team members--or at least the team leader--enough power so that they don't have to come running to you whenever an executive decision is required."

* "If your department or company is made up of several teams, each with responsibility for a different area, you want team members to really feel like a family; you want them to get to the point where they wouldn't dream of letting each other down. This kind of feeling can grow as members work together over time. So try to keep teams together, even if duties change. Naturally, you will lose team members due to promotion or attrition, but don't reshuffle teams just for the sake of change."

* "Be patient. Building a really dependable team takes time. Observe how your team members interact, and transfer incompatible individuals to teams where they will get along better. See to it that team members complement one another--that at least one member of the team has strength in each critical area of responsibility."

* "Keep the team busy and challenged. Nothing builds a sense of shared responsibility better than the feeling that 'We went through the fire together.'"

* "You have to stress accountability more with a team than with an individual. You can leave an individual alone and know he or she is doing the job. Not so with a team. With a team, you have to stress accountability daily. Give the team day-to-day goals, so that accountability becomes a way of life. Have members hold frequent meetings, without you, in which they have to account to each other."

* "You can build a sense of accountability by giving team members recognition and praise whenever it is earned, not just when the main goal is reached."

* "Let the team, as much as possible, form its own mission statements and set its own goals. If team members are setting unreasonably low or high standards, you can intervene--but if they discuss their goals with you beforehand, so you are both clear on what is expected, you shouldn't have to step in."

* "Let team members discuss each other's job descriptions, and possibly adjust them by consensus if it seems that Person A would be better off switching some responsibilities with Person B."

* "Make sure the team keeps the big picture in mind. A team can sometimes become so insular that it loses sight of how its tasks relate to the corporate mission. …

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