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How to Build a Culture of Accountability in Your Organization

To reach its full potential, an organization must have a culture of accountability, in which each person recognizes the importance of delivering on commitments and taking ownership of their outcomes. No individual approaches their work with the intention of falling short on their commitments, but nonetheless, it happens. Other priorities get in the way, obstacles arise, and circumstances change. Given this reality, leaders need to ensure that each individual understands and accepts the difference between intention and results and puts their focus on achieving results. 

Individuals don’t become accountable automatically; they require the direction and support of company leaders. By following a clear strategy, you can guide individual behavior and develop greater accountability across every team. Here are four steps to building a culture of accountability in your organization.

Make Expectations Clear

When it comes to building accountability, it’s not enough to assume that people know what to do or that they understand vague directions. In fact, a Gallup study found that half of employees don’t know what’s expected of them at work. Expectations should be consistently communicated, including specific deadlines and a clear definition of success. Particularly for less experienced or new employees, you’ll also need to clarify how expectations should be met and which actions are required. A good method for establishing clear performance expectations is developing SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound) goals and then reinforcing those expectations regularly over time.
Accountability is critical to team and organizational success. Learn how to  build a culture of accountability in this guide.

Get Agreement That Expectations Are Achievable

Before you can insist on accountability, it’s essential to ensure that employees see expectations as achievable and that they agree to their feasibility. Without that agreement, some individuals will add something to their list because they want to (or feel pressured to) contribute, even if they know they won’t be able to complete it. Some of the actions you can take to get agreement about whether a task is achievable include:

  • Consulting calendars to determine if the timeline for completion is realistic
  • Setting priorities so that sufficient time and resources can be allocated to the specific goal
  • Ensuring individuals have the necessary knowledge and skills to accept accountability for the specific goal
     

Establish a Hierarchy of Action

Every employee has to make decisions about how to make the best use of their time. For employees to meet their accountabilities, they need to know which tasks and projects take priority. Once these priorities are determined, this information needs to be communicated across the team. A clear hierarchy of action helps employees better assess their availability based on their existing accountabilities and avoid committing to more than what can be realistically achieved. Establishing priorities also ensures that individuals understand what can be compromised and what cannot. 

Lead by Example

A great way to ensure accountability in others is to lead by example. When leaders don’t just insist upon personal accountability but also demonstrate it themselves, others are more likely to develop a commitment to being accountable. Some of the ways a leader can help build accountability in others include:

  • Showing a strong commitment to achieving agreed-upon results by changing course, trying out new solutions, and getting input and assistance from others
  • Remaining focused on the end goal without giving in to distractions
  • Being willing to accept responsibility for failure to deliver on commitments

Accountability is as much a mindset as it is a behavior. Embedding a sense of accountability into the everyday behaviors of employees requires that each person understand that accountability is not optional. To build a culture of accountability, leaders need to set clear expectations, get agreement, establish priorities, and uphold a standard of accountability among all team members.


Download Guide: The Guide to Accountability: Delivering What You Promise and Getting Your Team to Do the Same

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Dave joined Eagle’s Flight in 1991 after having spent a number of years with a Toronto-based accounting firm. Since that time, he has held a number of posts within the company, primarily in the areas of Operations, Finance, Legal, and IT. In his current role as both Chief Financial Officer and President, Global Business, Dave is focused on ensuring the company’s ongoing financial health as well as growing its global market share. In pursuing the latter, Dave’s wealth of experience and extensive business knowledge has made him a valued partner and trusted advisor to both our global licensees and multinational clientele.

About Eagle's Flight

Founded in 1988, Eagle's Flight has earned its reputation as a global leader in the development and delivery of business-relevant, experiential learning programs that achieve specific training objectives and lasting behavior changes.

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