Cultivating a sense of ownership within an organisation or school is a great way to inspire people to be fully engaged. While this kind of environment encourages personal responsibility and can result in high-performance, ownership is most often focused on personal accountability and the expectation that staff will be intrinsically motivated.
However, let’s not underestimate the power of accountability among and between peers in a high-performance culture. In fact, some schools of thought suggest that peer accountability is the chief factor that drives high-performance teams. To be clear, we’re not talking about performance management systems or manager enforced performance metrics, but rather the kind of accountability that comes from creating a culture in which lower performers are supported in a way that is constructive yet challenging and pushes them to do their best and always improve.
Of course, cultivating an environment of peer accountability requires some foundational principles that include setting clear expectations, transparency and fearless communication, and a culture of learning with continuous improvement.
- Clear expectations. It’s hard to meet expectations when you’re not sure what’s expected of you. When it comes to accountability, let your team know that you expect them to keep you and each other accountable for achieving established goals and performance outcomes/metrics.
- Practice transparency in communication. This doesn’t always come naturally. People will often vent to everyone but the person they’re venting about. Create a collegiate communication style wherein people are candid and honest with each other rather than muttering behind each other’s backs.
- Model accountability. As the leader, it’s your responsibility to demonstrate how you want your staff to behave. If you want them to hold each other accountable, you have to model what that looks like by having those tough conversations as issues arise.
- Check in regularly and often. We’ve already discussed the benefit of frequent feedback over termly or even annual performance reviews. More frequent check-ins in a high-accountability, high-performance culture enables managers to provide feedback for staff that will help them grow and stay on track.
- Encourage growth and learning. Expecting high-performance doesn’t mean expecting perfection. And if you want to maintain a high-performance culture, it’s important to encourage team members to learn from mistakes and develop new skills.
The ultimate goal with creating a system of peer accountability is to empower your people to communicate concerns with each other directly and in a respectful way. With clear expectations and a foundation for transparent and fearless communication, accountability, growth and performance can, and most likely will, flourish.
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