Accountability is a cornerstone of any high-performing and successful organization. And it’s one of the most important skills that leaders can develop in themselves and their teams. Accountability is about taking ownership of your responsibilities, being honest about what you’ve done well and where you need to improve, and following through on commitments.
You must follow through on your promises. If you declare you’ll finish a task by a certain date, complete it before or soon after the deadline – don’t put it off until later in the day, week, or month.
People will trust and respect you more if they can rely on what you say about yourself and what others have told you and if you’re accountable for your actions and results. This article discusses the importance of accountability culture, what it is, and how to establish one.
- What is a Culture of Accountability?
- Benefits of Creating a Culture of Accountability
- How to Make Accountability a Core Part of Your Culture
What is a Culture of Accountability?
An accountability culture is one where people are held accountable for their actions. This means that they are expected to succeed in their roles. It also means that if they fail, the consequences will be severe.
A culture of accountability is the opposite of a “culture of entitlement.” Where a culture of entitlement creates an environment where individuals expect others to do things for them, a culture of accountability creates an environment where individuals are expected to do something for themselves.
Accountability can also be applied to groups within an organization, as well as individuals. For example, if there is a group within your organization whose performance is consistently poor, there may be a lack of accountability. You may need to take action against one or more group members until their performance improves.
A lack of accountability can lead to negative consequences for your organization. For example, suppose you have employees who do not perform their jobs effectively or adequately. In that case, this could lead to increased customer dissatisfaction and loss of revenue and profits for your company. This could also cause employee morale to decline because they see that their contributions do not matter enough for them to be rewarded properly by management or rewarded at all by management if they do not perform.
In a culture of accountability, employees feel empowered and supported by their managers, peers, and the organization. They know that if they make a mistake, they will be treated fairly and given a chance to learn from it.
When employees have a strong sense of ownership over their work, they’re more likely to take ownership of the problems that arise along the way. This can help you avoid costly mistakes down the road — both in terms of time lost fixing them, money lost due to customer dissatisfaction or other problems caused by those mistakes, and employee morale damaged by having to fix things after they’ve already happened.
A culture of accountability is based on five key elements:
- ACCOUNTABILITY: Employees are held responsible for their actions and decisions. They are not allowed to blame others or make excuses for poor performance. This helps improve employee performance by motivating them to perform better and learn from their mistakes.
- FAIRNESS: Employees must be treated fairly by management and colleagues alike. Employees should be given equal opportunities to perform well and advance their careers within the organization. The only exception would be when there is a legitimate reason why someone cannot do something (e.g., disability). In this case, an exception can be made if it does not violate the core values of fairness and equity embedded in a culture of accountability.
- RESPECT: Respect builds trust between employees and managers in an organization that encourages open communication at all levels and between employees. Respected employees will communicate more honestly, improving productivity and efficiency.
- TRUST is essential to creating a culture of accountability because it creates an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing ideas and opinions to work together effectively to achieve common goals for the benefit of all involved parties within the organization.
- TRANSPARENCY: Transparency builds employee trust by showing management and leadership aren’t hiding anything. Transparency encourages employees to be more engaged in their work environment because they feel they have some control over what happens, resulting in higher productivity.
Benefits of Creating a Culture of Accountability
Accountability is one of the most important qualities in any business. It keeps employees working hard, doing their best, and ensuring the company gets the best out of them. Accountability is more than just an attitude, though. It’s a culture that needs to be fostered. When everyone on your team understands what it means to be accountable, they’ll be able to meet their goals better and perform at their best. Here we’ll discuss some benefits of creating a culture of accountability in your organization
1. Increases Trust
Increasing trust is the ultimate benefit of creating an accountability culture. When people feel they can trust one another and the organization, they will be more likely to go above and beyond their job descriptions. They will work harder and smarter. This will ultimately lead to higher productivity, better customer service, and happier employees.
When you have a culture that encourages accountability, it promotes transparency as well. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing at all times. There are no secrets or surprises. You know who is doing what and when it’s supposed to be done because you have set deadlines for each task, and each person has agreed to them.
This also means someone can be held accountable for poor performance. If they fail a task, they face public ridicule or lost advancement opportunities.
2. Increases Productivity
A culture of accountability is a powerful tool for increasing productivity and employee engagement. Accountability is the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions, especially when they have negative consequences.
Accountable people are more motivated and productive since they know their activities affect their careers.
By encouraging employees to accept responsibility, you may establish a culture of accountability. This implies they must recognize mistakes, learn from them, and move on without fear of retribution.
A culture of accountability needs leaders to convey expectations so employees know what’s expected and how it will effect their pay and promotions. This environment pushes people to do their best work since poor performance has consequences.
3. Improves Quality of Work
If you want to improve the quality of your employees’ work, create a culture of accountability.
This is not just about setting goals and holding people accountable for them. It’s about creating a system that motivates everyone to deliver their best work.
For example, if your company aims to ship 100 products this month, you can create an incentive program where employees get cash bonuses for hitting specific targets. But that only works if you have a system that allows people to track their progress toward meeting their goals.
You also need to connect incentives with rewards. If your team meets its goal, it will get a bonus at the end of the month. If they miss it by 5%, they’ll still get something (maybe half their prize). But if they fall short by 10%, then there are no rewards for them at all. That sends a clear message about what is expected from them and what behavior will be tolerated — or not tolerated — by management.
4. Boosts Employee Morale
Employee morale is a measure of employees’ satisfaction in their work environment. It can be influenced by several factors, including workplace culture, leadership, and employee engagement. When employees lack motivation and feel they are not treated fairly or rewarded appropriately, they may become unmotivated and unproductive. This can lead to lower productivity and higher turnover rates among employees who do not feel engaged.
Every employee knows what’s expected of them and how they’ll be judged when a corporation has an accountability culture. This creates an environment where everyone knows their role and how to succeed. Transparency in the workplace offers people a sense of ownership over their jobs and improves their pride in their daily work.
In addition to boosting employee morale, having a culture of accountability also helps foster better relationships between workers and managers or supervisors because all parties understand what is expected from one another at all times. For example, if an employee has questions about his performance review from his manager or supervisor, he can ask these questions directly.
5. Fosters Creativity
Accountability is a powerful tool for driving creativity and innovation. When people know they will be held accountable for their actions and results, they are more likely to take risks and be creative in their thinking.
When people feel accountable for something, they are more willing to take risks to achieve their goals. This can lead to more innovative ideas, resulting in better products or services.
Accountability also helps organizations grow by fostering an environment where employees feel safe taking risks without fear of reprisal. This encourages them to think outside the box and develop new ways of doing things that may not have been considered before.
The power of accountability is that it makes people more creative. Trying to solve a problem without being accountable is a recipe for failure. Employees not held responsible for their actions will not feel as compelled to do a good job and will likely do the minimum amount required to get by.
Accountability helps people think outside the box and develop new solutions when faced with a problem. When everyone has their ideas about how something should be done, they have the opportunity to discuss these ideas openly and discover new ways to approach different situations. This process encourages creativity and innovation because employees are willing to take risks when they know they won’t be punished if something goes wrong.
When employees feel like they can trust you, they will be more open with their ideas and suggestions for improvement in your business. This leads to better communication throughout your organization and lets everyone involved in making decisions on behalf of your company know exactly what needs to be done for things to run smoothly.
6. Increases Customer Satisfaction
When employees know they will be held accountable for their actions, they tend to work harder and more efficiently. This leads to increased customer satisfaction, which is a win-win for both the company and the consumer.
It can be argued that a company with a culture of accountability will see a higher level of customer satisfaction than companies that do not have this type of culture. Customers want to feel like they are getting their money’s worth when they spend it on a product or service. Suppose the company does not have a culture of accountability in place. In that case, customers may lose trust in the business because they do not feel protected from poor customer service or unsatisfactory products or services.
7. Decreases Employee Turnover Rate
Employee turnover can be extremely costly for any organization. The average cost for replacing an employee is about 20% of the employee’s annual salary. Not only does this include the cost of recruiting and training, but also it takes time away from other projects that could be more productive to get new employees up to speed.
A culture of accountability helps employees feel more invested in their jobs and their organizations as a whole. When employees see their efforts making a difference, they have more motivation to stay on board with their employers long-term.
Another benefit of creating a culture of accountability is that it establishes better-informed decision-makers among your team members. An employee who has been asked to make decisions will likely ask questions before making those decisions, which leads to better outcomes than if they were just left alone to make them without guidance or oversight.
How to Make Accountability a Core Part of Your Culture
There’s nothing more powerful than a cohesive team. When you can depend on your coworkers to do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it, you can accomplish so much more. Here are tips on how to achieve an accountability culture.
1. Leading by Example
One of the most effective ways to create a culture of accountability is to set an example. Leading by example means you are always willing to step up and be accountable for your actions. This can be difficult because it involves taking responsibility for mistakes and accepting criticism from others. However, it also makes it easier for your team members to hold themselves accountable since they know you are doing so.
To set an example, you need to make sure that you are being honest with yourself about how well you are performing and how much work needs to be done for your team to succeed. You also need to ensure that everyone understands their roles within the team and what they need to do for those roles to be successful.
To do this, there are a few things that you need to do regularly:
- BE ON TIME: You don’t want to be late or absent from meetings or events. If you have an unexpected conflict and cannot make it on time, let someone know ahead of time so they can plan accordingly.
- BE PREPARED: Always come prepared with a plan and an idea of what you want to get out of the meeting or event. Make sure everyone in the forum has all the information they need before it starts so they can focus on the topic instead of trying to find information during the conference itself.
- TAKE NOTES: While someone else may be taking notes during the meeting, this isn’t always going to happen, so you must take notes yourself so everyone has access to them later on down the road when they need them most.
- BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR OWN MISTAKES: If there is a problem with a project or task, don’t try to cover it up or blame someone else. Instead, be honest with yourself and others about what went wrong and how you can fix it moving forward. Don’t make excuses or shift blame — just admit what happened, why it happened, and what needs to change so that it doesn’t happen again.
- TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR SETTING DIRECTION AND COMMUNICATING EXPECTATIONS: When things go wrong on projects, teams often blame poor communication for why the project failed. While lack of communication can certainly contribute to problems, the reality is that teams usually aren’t clear about what they’re supposed to accomplish or how they should complete their tasks. If this happens on your team, then start by taking responsibility for setting direction and communicating expectations clearly from the beginning so that everyone knows exactly what’s expected of them.
- SPEAK UP WHEN YOU SEE SOMETHING WRONG: Don’t be afraid to speak up when you see someone making a mistake or not doing something right. The person will appreciate being told what they did wrong and how to fix it. This will also show others that the person who spoke up has high standards for themselves and those around them.
2. Setting Team Goals
With the right tools and processes, you can make accountability a core part of your culture and a core value of your team. How? By setting clear, measurable goals for your team.
That’s where goal-setting comes in. A goal is an objective that can be expressed quantitatively or qualitatively. It’s a specific target that you want to reach. You can set personal or team goals, but either way, it’s important to make sure they’re clear and measurable so that everyone on your team knows what success looks like.
What does it mean for a goal to be specific? It means being able to answer questions like: When do we need to achieve this? What are the criteria for success? Who will be responsible for achieving it? What resources are required to make it happen?
Here, we’ll go through some examples of how to set goals for your team:
- IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM OR OPPORTUNITY AT HAND: The first step in setting goals is identifying the problem or option you want to tackle. It can be anything from increasing revenue to improving customer satisfaction. Think about it this way: if there were no problems, you wouldn’t need goals!
- START WITH SMART GOALS: Your goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). A good example of a SMART plan would be “to improve customer satisfaction ratings by 10%.” This is an attainable goal because you can measure it easily by looking at customer satisfaction ratings before and after implementing new policies or procedures. It is relevant because it’s tied directly to your business objectives and has a deadline so you can track progress along the way. “To increase sales” isn’t a SMART goal because it doesn’t tell us how much sales need to increase or what timeframe we’re looking at for this increase.
- BRAINSTORM SOLUTIONS: Once you have identified the problem or opportunity, brainstorm as many possible solutions as possible. This can be done as a group or individually; it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as everyone gets involved in coming up with ideas and solutions. Be sure each person brings their unique perspective on things, so you don’t miss any pictures along the way!
- SELECT ONE IDEA: Now that all possible solutions have been brainstormed and discussed among the group select one idea that sounds like it could work well for your team and company culture. If multiple ideas sound like they would work well together, then make an executive decision on which one is best suited for your needs and preferences based on what you need.
- SET DEADLINES FOR EACH OBJECTIVE: Deadlines are important because they give teams a sense of urgency around completing their work by a certain time frame. If you don’t have deadlines, it becomes easy for team members to procrastinate until they run out of time before completing their work.
- DECIDE ON THE BEST SOLUTION (OR SOLUTIONS) AND ASSIGN TASKS ACCORDINGLY: This is where you get to choose which ideas will be implemented and when they will be completed. You may already have a rough idea of what needs to happen next with certain projects, but if not, now is a good time to start planning out your next steps and putting them into action ASAP!
When you ask yourself these questions about each goal you set, you’ll be able to communicate what success looks like — which helps everyone on your team know how their efforts fit into the bigger picture of achieving results. One of the biggest challenges for any team leader is getting the team to buy into a common vision and mission. It’s not enough to simply set goals — you must ensure everyone understands why those goals are important. When selecting team goals, here’s what you need to consider:
- Make sure your team understands why you’re doing what you’re doing (the “why”). This will help your team understand why they need to work together, even when it’s hard.
- This will help your team understand why they need to work together, even when it’s hard. Be specific about what success looks like. The more specific you can be, the better off you’ll be because this will give your team something concrete and measurable to focus on as they work toward their goals.
- The more specific you can be, the better off you’ll be because this will give your team something concrete and measurable to focus on as they work toward their goals. Make sure everyone knows their role in attaining those goals. This is especially important if multiple people are involved in achieving a goal (i.e., several people may be necessary for success).
3. Defining Workplace Expectations
Workplace expectations are the standards employees must adhere to do their job well. They can be thought of as the “rules” of the workplace.
Defining workplace expectations is critical in creating an accountable culture and team. When your team knows what they’re expected to do, they can be held accountable. If your team doesn’t know what they’re expected to do, you can’t have them responsible.
- When defining workplace expectations, ask yourself:
- What is my expectation of my team?
- What will they do daily?
- What is the standard I expect them to achieve?
When defining workplace expectations, it’s important to be consistent and clear. It’s also important to determine what you expect from your employees and what they can expect from you.
If you want your employees to be accountable and responsible, then it’s up to you as the leader to set that example. You need to lead by example and show them how it’s done.
Here are some tips for defining workplace expectations:
- Be clear about what is expected of each person in the organization. This will ensure that everyone knows their role so there won’t be any confusion or misunderstandings about what each person does or does not do daily.
- Be consistent with your expectations across the board for all employees at all levels of the organization or business — no exceptions here! If something is expected of one employee, then it should be expected of all employees equally regardless of rank or position within the company or organization.
- Be sure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities within the organization/business to know exactly what they need to do daily to achieve success within their position and function at work, whether an effective leader or manager.
4. Monitoring Progress
Monitoring progress is a key part of an accountability culture. And it’s not just about seeing if people are doing what they said they would do. It’s also about recognizing when something is not going as planned and taking action to help them get back on track.
The monitoring approach helps you stay on top of things without micromanaging people or creating an atmosphere where employees feel like they’re being judged all the time.
For each person on your team, decide on an appropriate cadence for checking in with them — daily, weekly or monthly — and stick to it as much as possible so that everyone knows what’s expected of them at any given time.
Here are some ways to monitor progress and hold people accountable for the work they’ve committed to:
- Regularly check in with team members or employees on their progress. The best way to do this is through regular one-on-one meetings, but you can also use other methods such as email or Slack messages.
- Measure results based on agreed-upon metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). Using a project management tool like Basecamp, Trello, or Asana, it’s easy to set up automated notifications when someone has completed an assignment or hit a milestone.
- If someone misses a deadline or doesn’t meet their goals, talk about it immediately so they understand what happened and how they could have done better next time.
- This isn’t just about ensuring everyone gets their work done — it’s also about building trust within your team. If people know they’re being held accountable for their actions, they’ll be more likely to step up when new opportunities arise.
5. ASKING FOR FEEDBACK FROM OTHERS
One of the best ways to get feedback on your performance is to ask for it. It’s a simple and effective way to get information about your performance, but most people rarely do it.
You won’t learn anything useful about how to advance in your career or in your current position if you don’t ask for and consider input from others. Don’t be afraid to approach a manager and ask for comments if you don’t receive any. If they still don’t, you can ask someone higher up in the organization who has more clout to get things moving if they’re stuck.
The problem with asking for feedback is that many people don’t know how to do it well. They may be too shy or nervous or worried that they’ll come across as arrogant or pushy if they ask for feedback directly from their boss or coworkers. But there are ways to make asking for feedback less awkward — if you know how to do it right. Here are ways you can ask for input from others:
- ASK FOR FEEDBACK ON YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE: When was the last time someone gave you honest feedback about how you lead? How about coaching tips or suggestions on how to improve? What do they see as your strengths? Weaknesses?
- ASK FOR FEEDBACK ON YOUR WORK ETHIC: Ask someone who knows you well what they think of your work ethic. Do they think you’re hardworking and dedicated? Are there any areas where they think you could improve in terms of time management or diligence? When was the last time someone asked you this type of question directly?
- ASK FOR FEEDBACK ON THE RESULTS OF SOMETHING RECENTLY AT WORK OR SCHOOL: Maybe something went wrong at work, and someone had to apologize for it in front of everyone else — or maybe an important project didn’t go as planned. Ask them what happened, how they feel about it, and how they think things should have gone differently.
Here are four tips for asking for feedback:
- BE SPECIFIC ABOUT WHAT KIND OF FEEDBACK YOU WANT: Do you just want general comments? Or do you want specific suggestions for improvement? Do you want detailed directions on how to improve? These details will help ensure that whoever gives you feedback knows exactly what kind of feedback they provide.
- ASK FOR FEEDBACK IN A TIMELY WAY: You don’t want to wait until it’s too late or too hard to implement any changes suggested by someone else. It’s best to give yourself enough time to make any changes without delay, but not too much so that your team feels like they’re taking up valuable resources’ time with something that may not even be important.
- ASK SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOURSELF: Being the only one who knows how well something works is sometimes overwhelming! Having someone else validate your work’s quality can boost confidence and help ensure everyone is on the same page with what needs to be done moving forward (and when their work needs to get done).
- BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF WHEN RECEIVING FEEDBACK: If someone gives you the bad news that hurts your feelings, don’t take it personally! It’s just part of being a human being, which means there’s no shame in admitting when something goes wrong or needs improvement — and that’s why getting honest feedback from someone with experience in this field is so important.
6. Aligning Development, Learning, and Growth
Accountability is a core value of the team and aligns with learning and growth. The most effective way to make accountability a core part of your culture is to align it with development, knowledge, and growth.
When you align accountability with development, learning, and growth, you’re not just holding people accountable for what they do; you’re helping them learn how to do better next time. You must ensure that people are held responsible for results, but what happens when they don’t meet those results? What if they’re given feedback on their performance and still don’t improve? One way to hold people accountable for results is by providing feedback on their performance after every project or task.
By giving feedback after each project or task, you’ll be able to provide constructive criticism on what worked well and what needs improvement. By using this method, you’ll be able to ensure that everyone continues to grow professionally and personally as an employee within your organization.
If someone doesn’t improve after receiving feedback from one project or task, there might be deeper issues. For example, maybe the employee wasn’t ready for their role before being promoted. Perhaps they were overwhelmed by the responsibility of their new role and didn’t have enough support from their manager or peers to succeed in it. If this were the case, you might need to reassign them to a more suitable position within your company so they can continue growing their skillset before moving forward in their career.
Development is an important component of a company’s culture. It helps you attract talent, retain it, and develop your employees into leaders. But what does development mean exactly?
There are three main components to corporate growth:
- TEAM DEVELOPMENT refers to how well your team works to accomplish goals and deliver on project targets. Whether in weekly meetings or check-ins with teammates, good teamwork leads to better results.
- GROWTH OF INDIVIDUAL EMPLOYEES: This refers to each individual’s personal growth as they progress through their career at your company. If you want your employees to grow into leaders, you need to invest in their development (both professionally and personally).
- COMPANY CULTURE DEVELOPMENT: This refers to the culture at your company and how it impacts your employee’s performance. Positive company culture can lead to happier employees who are more productive and less likely to leave for other opportunities.
7. Recognizing and Celebrating Progress
The best way to build an accountability culture is to recognize and celebrate progress. This is not easy, especially when creating a new culture from scratch. It’s tempting to keep moving forward (and we do!), but you need to look back at what you’ve accomplished in the last six months and give yourself credit for all the hard work you’ve put in.
A good place to start is by keeping track of all your wins — both personal and professional. Track and write down everything that went right each day, simple as having a productive meeting or getting an email answered quickly. These are things that are often overlooked when we’re focusing on bringing more done every day, but they can help us feel more confident about our work and our ability to accomplish what we set out to do.
Once you have a list of wins, it will be easier for you to recognize other people for their accomplishments too. The key here is not just celebrating success but also realizing how hard people worked to get there.
Accountability is a crucial component of the company culture and the success of your business. By implementing some of these methods, you can encourage your employees to take their work more seriously, keeping them motivated. This will give your business a competitive advantage over other companies that still rely on outdated ways of running their operations. Ultimately, you will see an increase in productivity and better results as everyone will work hard to get ahead within the company.