6 Steps For Taking Accountability Seriously

Frequently discussed, less frequently implemented, “accountability” is an increasingly important attribute of an effectively liberated work culture. Every leader knows this, yet almost all struggle with establishing accountability as a cultural norm.

Here are six steps for introducing, enhancing, or advancing the accountability cause:

  1. Everyone must sign off on their responsibility for understanding their own expectations, as well as the expectations for others on their team. This is true at all levels of the organization.  Unaccountable executives cannot foster organizational accountability because everyone sees the hypocrisy.
  2. When one person is unclear about their expectations, they are responsible for reaching some clarity, whatever it takes.
  3. Agreements, including deadlines, should be honored, and if negotiation is necessary, it should occur before the deadline, not after.  Recurring missed deadlines invite a discussion of reasonableness, better planning, and unsuccessful performance.
  4. Focus on the behavioral component of accountability (“we’re a day behind schedule, let’s talk”) versus judgment that contributes little to future success (“it looks like your personal life is getting in the way of work”).
  5. Encouraging team members to support each other, including helping out if another team member could use another’s assistance.  It’s a team effort and support usually increases everyone’s accountability.
  6. Make sure everyone has the resources and the talent for an area of accountability.  This process offers the possibility for project-specific realignment within an organization and anticipates the “right person in the wrong seat” problem.

When you take accountability seriously, it can lead to greatly enhanced performance with some positive intolerance for individuals who refuse to be accountable.  In this case, you may not even have to remark on it.  It will be painfully obvious to everyone.