Embracing Accountability

Accountability, specifically a Culture of Accountability. If that’s not something you need for your business then stop reading.  But, if the word incites any level of curiosity or desire on how to grow a culture that embraces it, read on.

This past week, accountability became the topic of discussion during a meeting (it often does).  The challenge most people have with it is how to instill it into a business, organization, or even their personal families. 

 Let’s start with Webster’s Definition: 


“The quality or state of being accountable especiallyan obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions”

In our experience without an organization that has elements of accountability, the business will not succeed, at least not long-term.  There must be accountability.  You and your employees must be willing to accept responsibility for your actions.  Seriously, think about how many of the challenges the world is faced with, that would literally disappear if everyone would accept responsibility for their actions instead of pushing the blame on someone else.  Accountability matters. 

Change your language.  One of the simplest ways to jump start a culture that embraces accountability is to simply change the language used when talking about roles in your business.  Honestly, you can do this same thing with your family, a non-profit org, or any other community group your involved in.  

Your company Organizational Chart is now an Accountability Chart.  A “weekly task list” (or family chores!) is an accountability list with someone’s name attached to each task, so it’s clear who is responsible for it.  So many businesses are challenged with employees seeking more autonomy today, employees want more flexibility and freedom.   It may not make sense at first, but one of the keys to autonomy is accountability. When employees are clear on what they are accountable for and when; and, they’re willing to “accept the responsibility for their actions” they free themselves from direct supervision.      

Executing on Accountability.   To make this work you must have action.   You must have a way to get tactical and be serious about implementing the idea that accountability is more than a word.  That it is going to be part of the fiber of your business, literally woven thru every phase.  Your team needs to have expectations established and there needs to be a system that tracks progress, efficiencies, and bottlenecks.  That’s how you get the accountability component to work.

Here are 4 ways to foster accountability.…

1 – Get clear on all the high-level functions/roles that need to be completed, and assign only one individual as the person ultimately responsible for each role.  If it is a project with a timeline, agree on a date.  If it is ongoing, be clear on the reporting or scorecard cadence.

2 – Agree on metrics to be tracked. It is easy to come up with reasons why some areas of a business can’t be measured, but usually, it is an excuse and not reality.  Try to leverage technology by creating a dashboard to monitor them.   There must be a way to monitor progress, even if it makes people uncomfortable (or especially because it makes people uncomfortable…). What gets measured gets done.

3 – Make meetings a regular practice. Why?  Because they work!  They foster accountability!  They don’t need to be 2 or 3-hour meetings.   You can get a lot accomplished in a short 30-minute meeting once a week.   Have a set meeting structure, follow it and see how much better your communication becomes.  

4 – Celebrate success!  When you hit milestones, celebrate them.  It doesn’t need to be over the top, but acknowledging achievements reinforces what you’re doing is working. And likewise, when someone isn’t performing you must call them out on it.  That is accountability.  When someone is constantly under-performing it hurts the entire company.

What do you think?   Does your company have a culture that embraces accountability?   Do you have too many instances where deadlines get missed and it’s always someone else’s fault? 

How would you rate yourself or your company when it comes to accountability?  Do you want to get better?  As always, we love to hear your comments in the space below.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

1 thought on “Embracing Accountability”

  1. Brad Steinlage says:

    Spot on, Chris. Every good operational excellence program has a strong element of “who does what by when?” included in it. I think there is a concern or thought in some instances that this type of accountability may negatively impact morale, when in reality, I have found the opposite to be true. Everyone wants to know that what they do matters and that everyone is doing his or her job. Without accountability, the message is “it doesn’t matter.” Without accountability those that are doing their job get discouraged when they see others not doing their job, and not being held accountable for it.

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