Having a culture of accountability in the workplace is important for the success of your business. Each member in a team depends upon everyone else, expecting work to be efficiently and properly completed. When employees feel accountable, they often feel a sense of ownership and want the business to succeed.

However, the methods you use to hold your employees accountable can mean the difference between them feeling happily engaged – and feeling miserably micromanaged. Handled improperly, you can turn what should feel like an accomplishment into a feeling of failure, which results in tentative – and even disconnected – employees and unfinished tasks. So how can an employer create a culture of accountability without micromanaging?

Creating Accountability

Clearly outline responsibilities:

How can a person correctly complete a task that he or she does not fully understand? The answer is: it can’t happen. When hiring an employee, it is important to have a comprehensive job description. Knowing exactly what he or she is expected to do will give your employee a solid foundation on which to build confidence. This includes properly training everyone for the roles they are to fulfill and giving them access to resources to learn more as they go. Once employees have a basic understanding of job duties, you can allow them to have input in creating SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely). This gives them ownership over the expectations of their positions and allows them to monitor their own progress.

Systematically monitor progress:

Once expectations are outlined, you need a way to monitor progress that allows for regular checkpoints without your being overbearing. For example, regularly schedule employee reviews. This will allow for predetermined times when employee performance is discussed, including both the areas that employees are excelling in and those areas in need of improvement. In situations where progress needs to be more frequently monitored – for example, when a team is working on a project – a weekly team meeting can be held. This would allow for employees to update one other on progress as well as allowing management to check on the overall progress of the project. Having set check-in times allows the employees to self-report on progress. Also, these meetings are a good opportunity for the employer to encourage and reward properly completed tasks or goals. Celebrating successes builds employee confidence.

Be accountable yourself:

As a team leader, practice what you preach. If you want your employees to be accountable, you must be, as well. Transparently share your goals with your team. Make clear what the overall goal is for the office and help them to understand the link between their personal roles and the overall goal. Knowing the “why” behind their work goes a long way in helping them understand the importance of their tasks being completed correctly on time. Being willing to share your goals, of course, also means you must be willing to admit when you haven’t met them. The up side: admitting to your own failures and using them as a learning experience will inspire your team to do the same.

From Accountability to Micromanaging: What to Avoid

Loosely delegating:

When assigning a task, allow that employee to fully take on responsibility. If you assign that task to someone but do not allow him or her to complete it, this can feel like a lack of trust. Define each person’s roles in a project, along with deadlines, and then give people space to complete their tasks. Supply employees with all of the information they need up front so that you don’t need significant involvement in the process. Delegating the task and stepping back will show them your confidence in their abilities.

Getting lost in the details:

Often there are different ways to accomplish the same task. As an employer, spending too much time correcting every single detail of how an employee is accomplishing a task can prove frustrating. Attention to detail is important but not at the expense of the big picture. If the task is completed in a timely manner and to the satisfaction of management, scrutiny of each detail could be damaging instead of constructive, and employees can develop a fear of failure. The focus will shift from completing the task to not feeling competent, even if the end result is success.

Checking in too frequently:

Once you have assigned a task, allow that employee space to accomplish that task. The more time you spend “checking in” on progress, the more time is wasted – including yours – and focus can be lost. Ultimately, this removes the responsibility of being accountable from the employee completely.  If they do not need to track their own progress, this will program them to expect you to check up on them. This transfers the responsibility back to you and leaves more room for important details to fall through the cracks.

The Right Balance

Ultimately, micromanaging will lead to only one thing: a manager’s plate that is far too full. Instead, start with hiring good employees and train them well. Give them ownership of their tasks and the room to accomplish their goals. Empower them to do well by giving them the opportunities to excel and leave the micromanaging to someone else.