5 Tips To Developing a Culture of Accountability


“It’s not my fault…I was told I had to do this”

“That is not in my job description…”

“I don’t have the tools to be successful…”

“My job changes every 3-6 months…how can they expect me to be successful”

“My boss does not tell us anything…”

“I can’t help you…figure it out”

These are comments that we hear all too often in our day to day lives.  Last week, I was in a clothing store and listened to a conversation with a manager scolding their employee for not handling their stocking correctly.  When the employee asked a very simple question searching for clear guidance, the manager responded, “they don’t pay me enough to figure that out”.

Accountability is a two-way street.  Accountability is a choice that has to be made by each individual team member versus a directive from their superiors.  Poor managers often think they only should drive accountability downward, forcing accountability on their direct reports and placing blame on their team for poor results.  An example of a poor manager’s comments “your results have to improve and you need to turn this around”.  High performing leaders develop a level of trust and accountability with their teams, setting clear and defined expectations, communicating clearly and often.  A high performing leader says “we need to improve these results, and let’s figure out a plan together to do so”.  Poor managers assign blame…Great leaders share the results and the plan to improve.

5 ways to develop accountability with your teams:

  1. Assign specific tasks to your individual contributors with set completion dates. Try to avoid the individual sharing these assignments with others.  The more tasks are shared with others, the less accountable the individual becomes.  However, encourage cross collaboration and working with others.  Silo driven organizations are usually the ones making excuses vs achieving great things.
  2. Align rewards to performance. Reward people for accomplishing tasks with measurable outcomes versus just getting things done.
  3. Define the purpose of your group. Every member of your team should understand why you do what you do.  Once your team has bought into the purpose (WHY), you can develop the process (WHAT & HOW) to help you achieve your goals.  Every member of your team should understand the benefit of their roles.
  4. Keep tasks clear and simple. We ask people constantly to produce more with less.  The simpler the tasks you assign to your team, the more accountable they become because they know exactly what is expected of them.  And many times, these simple assignments will encourage improvisation outside of the original project scope, which fosters creativity and ownership.
  5. Set up multiple check points throughout each month. The worst managers are the ones who tell you what to do, make promises that they could never keep, then disappear on you (reference the Ghost Manager post from last year). Effective leaders setup check points which are determined by their individual team members and discuss progress updates.  Remember that some people like to have numerous communication check points while others are more comfortable with a less frequent update schedule.  With an accountable team, the quality of the updates is more important than the frequency.

I was recently questioned if I was a leader that I would want to work for?  This poignant question got me thinking about my journey as a leader, what traits and characteristics I possess that hopefully make others want to work with me, and more importantly, what skillsets do I need to work on to improve.  Please ask yourself this same question and write down the things you do well along with the areas that you wish you could develop.  What 1-2 things can you work on in the next 30 days to be better?  We all experience challenges in our careers and being accountable means celebrating the wins when they come and figuring out why we lost when we get knocked down.    A quote I recently enjoyed hearing is “the comeback will be better than the setback”.

I appreciate all of my followers on this site and enjoy the comments shared with me as we celebrate our third year of quarterly leadership posts.

Well Done > Well Said