5 Ways to Build a Culture of Accountability

We need people to be accountable. Have you said that about your team or colleagues?

I often hear people asking how they can improve the culture by people becoming more engaged and taking greater ownership – in other words, becoming more accountable.

What do accountable people do differently?

For starters, they lean with an attitude is ready to learn. They understand that making mistakes is how to improve. In addition, they step up and do what they say they will and speak up honestly and acknowledge their contribution or how they could/should have contributed. They don’t play the blame game. And finally, they’re positive and bounce back when the chips are down.

It’s clear why instilling a culture of accountability is desirable. It leads to more collaboration, engagement, faster growth, better results, to name a few positive measures.

Embed these 5 keys to instil a culture of accountability within your team and organisation:

1. Ensure everyone knows what accountability means and what they’re accountable for

A GM I’ve worked with (let’s call him Jim) presumed that everyone in his team knew the meaning of accountability. “It’s in the position description” he said. Yet without a shared understanding and common language around accountability, Jim’s team had varying views on it. If expectations about accountability aren’t aligned on, then how do people know what they are supposed to be committed to? 

2. Role model the behaviours consistently starting top down

On the train this week I overheard someone say “Yeah, they say they value customer service but we all it’s all about the sale, not the customer”.

Leaders have to walk their talk with integrity and be the example, because it’s that example that people can justify taking their cue from (even when they know it’s not the right thing to do). Blaming, excuses, judging others and letting ego get in the way simply breeds more of the same behaviours and causes resentment over time.

People who blame a lot rarely have the resilience and grit to hold others accountable – Brene Brown

3. Empower people to take the initiative and the lead

Give people enough autonomy to make decisions as they move through their work. I often see well-meaning leaders attempt to hold their report accountable for the result, but don’t give them the authority to make decisions and choose how the result will be achieved. Too many sign-offs and too many people wanting their 5c worth disempowers people and wastes time.

Don’t fall into the trap of making people accountable when you don’t have confidence in them. Trust matters.

4. Value people learning which involves mistakes 

No one is perfect. If we want to hold people accountable and champion them, then we need to let people learn through mistakes.

We also need to make it safe for people to speak up honestly, openly and vulnerably so we can help them explore and understand their contribution and the role they played in the result. Hindsight comes after the result – not before.

We blame to give away our discomfort, pain, and anger. It makes us feel better, but we give up the opportunity to show compassion and empathy – Brene Brown

5. Regularly track progress and review results

Giving effective feedback all play a role in someone feeling supported, engaged and willing to learn.

What would a shift in one of these mean to your leadership and the environment it creates around you?

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